• Diana Armstrong

You Can Grow Sweet Potatoes In London

Updated: Jan 14

I decided to grow my own sweet potatoes after having spent a small fortune over the years buying them from local markets. They are a very expensive food to buy, and because i love them so, (childhood memories in Barbados), it prompted me to attempt to grow them in my London kitchen/garden.

I planted both the purple/red skinned and white skinned potatoes. I found a massive difference in the speed of growth between the two varieties. It is my belief that the reason for this is because the purple skinned varieties are so much more dense and compact than the white varieties, and therefore the reason for the slower initial growth.

I started off by placing them at the same time in separate glasses of water suspended by toothpicks as you can see here in the photographs. But yet, the white one had roots within a week and a half, and the purple skinned one took three weeks before i saw a single root. Then the root system took off as fast as the white skinned potato.

Another difference between the two varieties is that even though with almost as much dense a root system as the white potato, the purple one still took longer to show any leaves at all, whilst the white one already had some leaves on a few short but healthy and sturdy stems.

Change the water if it appears cloudy.

They need a sunny window sill to start them off, and as much sun as possible. So if you would like to try growing them yourself, place them in your sunniest rooms. Change the water if it appears cloudy. They can stay in water until the stems reach approximately 6 to 8 inches and the leaves look healthy. After this, you will need to break off the stems from the main sweet potato, and plant them separately again in water until these stems begin to root. You could if you wish also put these stems, sometimes called shoots or slips, in the ground.

Because sweet potatoes need warmth and much sunlight to grow, it would be advisable not to plant the potato shoots/slips outside in the ground until the last frost has passed

Sweet potatoes take anything from 4 months to six months to mature.

A note of advice: your potatoes will only grow from the potato shoots/slips that you have grown from the main potato; they will not grow from the actual potato if you just planted that in the ground. The potato leaves are also edible and full of nutrients. They can be eaten as a salad leaf raw or lightly cooked like cabbage. Some people find the leaves an acquired taste, and other people love it. But then, the same can be said for cabbage!

Sweet potatoes take anything from four months to six months to mature. They are ready to harvest when the leaves begin to turn brown and start to wither. After they are harvested, they need to be kept in a humid dark place to mature in sweetness, for anything from 7 days to two weeks; otherwise they will have not have their characteristic sweet taste. The sugars need time to mature after you have dug them from the ground.

Depending on the yield of your harvest, if you have more than you need for immediate purposes, they can be stored wrapped separately in newspaper and placed in a cardboard box, or at the back of your cupboard where it is nice and dark. Stored this way, they are capable of lasting for several months.


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