While white or Irish potatoes are certainly more widely grown and eaten, sweet potatoes also deserve a place in your garden and at your table. They thrive in summer’s heat and little care to produce large, sweet tubers.
Homegrown sweet potatoes are not only loaded with great flavor, but they also are healthful. Sweet potatoes are excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and manganese, and a good source of copper, dietaryfiber, vitamin B6, potassium, and iron. They also contain proteins with antioxidant properties.
Sweet Potato Varieties
Unlike mose other vegetables, sweet potatoes are grown from small plants or “slips”, not seeds. Slips are cuttings taken from sweet potatoes grown the previous year. These certified disease-free slips can be purchased locally or through the mail.
Sweet potato varieties are grouped by moist or dry flesh. Most people prefer the moist-fleshed varieties for their sweet flavor. Contrary to popular belief orange moist-fleshed sweet potatoes are not yams. They received that name as a way to distinguish them from white-fleshed sweet potatoes. Yams are a different tropical root that’s rarely seen in our markets.
While sweet potatoes are traditionally grown in the hot, humid Southeast, some varieties are adapted to shorter growing seasons and are good choices for Northern gardeners. Sweet potatoes are also grouped as bush or vining types, depending on their growth habit.
Here are some of the best varieties to grow. All are moist-fleshed types unless otherwise indicated. ‘Beauregard’ is a vining variety that matures in 90 days from transplanting and has very little cracking. The rose-colored skin gives way to orange flesh. ‘Bunch Porto Rican’ is a bush type that has light yellow skin, cream, and orange-colored flesh, and attractive purple stems. It matures in 100-110 days. ‘Georgia Jet’ is a vining type that matures in only 80 days, making it a great Northern variety. It has rose-colored skin and dark red flesh. ‘Nancy Hall’ is an old-fashioned vining type with pale flesh and brown skin that matures in 110 days. It’s sweet and tasty. ‘Vardeman’ is a bush type that has stringless, orange flesh and dark orange skin. The purple and green leaves make this an attractive plant even in a flower garden. It matures in 100 days. ‘White Triumph’ is a vining type with white skin and dry, white flesh. It matures in 100 days.
Charlie Nardozie. 2009. Sweet Potatoes