Step-by-Step Guide to Harvesting, Digging, and Properly Storing Sweet Potatoes


Harvesting sweet potatoes can be a rewarding experience for gardeners. These versatile root vegetables, known for their rich flavors and nutritious qualities, can be grown in a variety of soil types and climates. In this article, we shall explore the process of harvesting sweet potatoes, from understanding when to dig them up to properly storing them for long-term consumption.

When it comes to harvesting sweet potatoes, timing is key. Sweet potatoes should ideally be dug before the first frost, as cooler temperatures can damage the tubers. Harvesting should be done when the potatoes have reached maturity, which is typically around 100-130 days after planting. To determine if the potatoes are mature, look for signs such as the skinning of some of the roots and the tender skin of the sweet potato.

Before digging up the sweet potatoes, it is important to prepare the soil. Ensure that the soil is well-drained and loose, as compacted soil can lead to damaged and misshapen tubers. Using a garden fork, carefully loosen the soil around the sweet potato hill to avoid bruising the potatoes. Gently lift the potatoes out of the ground, being careful not to cut or damage them.

Once the sweet potatoes have been harvested, they need to be cured before storing them. Curing improves the flavor and texture of the potatoes by converting their starches into sugars. To cure sweet potatoes, place them in a warm, humid location with temperatures around 80-85°F (27-29°C) and high humidity for 10-14 days. After curing, the potatoes will be more flavorful and their skins will be toughened, allowing for easier storage.

Storing sweet potatoes is an important practice, as it allows for their accessibility throughout the fall and winter months. Proper storage conditions include a cool, dark room with temperatures around 55-60°F (13-16°C) and low humidity. Ensure that the potatoes are stored in a well-ventilated area to prevent molding. Avoid storing sweet potatoes near fruits that emit ethylene gas, as this can cause them to spoil more quickly.

Harvesting and storing sweet potatoes require attention to detail and proper knowledge of the growing and curing process. By following these guidelines, growers can enjoy a bountiful yield of sweet potatoes that can be stored and consumed throughout the year. Remember to consult your local extension research for more information specific to your region, as different climates and soil types may require slight variations in the harvesting and storing methods.

Information About How To Harvest Sweet Potatoes

Harvesting sweet potatoes can be a rewarding experience, and knowing when and how to dig and store them is crucial to ensure their long-term preservation. Here is some useful information to guide you through the process.

When it comes to harvesting sweet potatoes, timing plays a significant role. Ideally, sweet potatoes should be harvested after they have reached their full maturity, which is typically around 100 to 120 days after planting. To find out if your sweet potatoes are ready, look for signs such as the vines dying back, and the sweet potatoes reaching a desirable size.

Before digging up your sweet potatoes, it is recommended to wait for a few days of dry weather. This practice enables the potatoes to be easily removed from the ground without causing any damage. Start by digging along the outer edge of the sweet potato bed, and then gradually work your way towards the center.

When digging, be careful not to damage the sweet potatoes. Use a garden fork or shovel to gently lift the soil and locate the sweet potatoes. It is essential to take your time and be gentle during this process to prevent cuts and bruises. Small cuts or bruises can lead to decay during storage.

Once the sweet potatoes are harvested, they need to be cured in order to improve their taste and texture. To cure sweet potatoes, place them in a warm and humid environment, such as a room with temperatures around 80-85°F (27-29°C) and 85-90% humidity, for about 7-10 days. Curing helps to heal any cuts or bruises and allows the sweet potatoes’ starches to convert into sugars, enhancing their flavor.

After curing, sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated area, preferably with temperatures between 55-60°F (13-16°C). Avoid storing them in temperatures below 50°F (10°C), as this can cause their flesh to become hard and develop an off taste. Additionally, make sure the storage area is free from any sources of ethylene gas, such as fruits, as it can accelerate the spoilage of sweet potatoes.

To store sweet potatoes, choose only those that are undamaged, free of cuts or bruises, and have been properly cured. These will have a longer shelf life and a better chance of preserving their flavor and texture over the winter months. It is good practice to frequently check on stored sweet potatoes and remove any that show signs of decay to prevent the damage from spreading.

Whether you choose to enjoy your sweet potatoes as fries, mashed, roasted, or in any other delicious recipe, knowing how to harvest and store them properly ensures a steady supply throughout the year. So go ahead and put this valuable information into practice!

When to Harvest Sweet Potatoes

Harvesting sweet potatoes depends largely on the fall temperatures in the area where they are grown. The author recommends harvesting sweet potatoes before the first freezing temperatures occur. This is because freezing temperatures can damage the roots and cause them to rot.

One method to determine if sweet potatoes are ready to harvest is by checking the skin. Mature sweet potatoes have a tougher skin that improves the flavor and makes them more accessible for winter storage. If the skin is too thin, the potatoes may not have matured fully.

Another method is to check the size of the potatoes. Sweet potatoes should be at least 2 inches in diameter before they are harvested. Small sweet potatoes can be left in the ground to continue growing and maturing. However, if they are not harvested before the first freezing temperatures, the roots may become damaged and the sweet potatoes will not be usable.

Before harvesting sweet potatoes, it is important to cure them. Curing sweet potatoes involves storing them in a warm, humidifier environment for a few weeks. This process allows the skin to harden and the flavors to develop. It also helps to extend the storage life of the sweet potatoes.

After curing, the sweet potatoes can be dug up from the soil. It is recommended to use a digging fork or shovel to gently remove the potatoes without damaging them. It is also important to be careful not to bruise or cut the sweet potatoes during the harvesting process.

Once the sweet potatoes are harvested, they should be stored in a cool and dark place. Storing sweet potatoes in crates or boxes, without stacking them too high, will help to ensure proper air circulation. This will prevent moisture buildup and potential rotting.

If you have more questions about harvesting sweet potatoes or need more information about banking them for winter storage, it is important to consult reliable sources or ask experienced growers for advice.

Important Tips for Harvesting Sweet Potatoes
Harvest sweet potatoes before the first freezing temperatures occur
Check the size and skin of the sweet potatoes to determine if they are ready to harvest
Cure sweet potatoes before storing them
Use proper tools to dig up sweet potatoes without damaging them
Store sweet potatoes in a cool and dark place with proper air circulation
Consult reliable sources or experienced growers for more information

How to Harvest Sweet Potatoes

When it comes to harvesting sweet potatoes, there are a few key steps to follow to ensure a successful harvest:

  • Find out when to harvest: Sweet potatoes should be harvested in the fall, after the vines have died back. The author recommends checking with your local agricultural extension service or doing some research to determine the ideal harvest time for your area.
  • Gather the necessary tools: To harvest sweet potatoes, you will need some digging tools like a shovel or fork to loosen the soil around the plants.
  • Prepare the area: Before you start harvesting, make sure the soil is dry. Wet soil can make it difficult to dig up the roots.
  • Dig carefully: Start digging a foot or two away from the plant and work your way towards the center to avoid damaging the sweet potatoes. Be gentle and avoid puncturing or bruising the roots, as this can lead to decay during storage.
  • Carefully remove the sweet potatoes: Once you have dug up the sweet potatoes, gently shake off any excess soil. Do not wash them, as water can cause them to decay. Also, avoid skinning the sweet potatoes, as they will store better with their skins intact.
  • Curing the sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes should be cured before consumption. To do this, place them in a warm and humid environment (around 85 degrees Fahrenheit and 85-90% humidity) for about a week. This will help increase their shelf life and improve their flavor.
  • Store the sweet potatoes: After curing, sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area. Ideally, the temperature should be around 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of around 60-75%. Using boxes or crates with good air circulation will help prevent decay.
  • Enjoy your harvest: Sweet potatoes can be used in a variety of recipes, from simple roasted wedges to mashed sweet potatoes or sweet potato fries. They are a delicious and nutritious addition to your meals!

By following these steps, you can ensure a successful harvest and enjoy the flavorful bounty of sweet potatoes that you have grown!

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.