Sweet potato sweet potato: description, cultivation and cooking features

A tropical plant called sweet potato is not very popular among domestic gardeners. The reason lies in concerns about overly complicated care and inappropriate climatic conditions. Actually, cultivating sweet potatoes is not as difficult as it seems. The article will discuss what is remarkable for this root crop and how to properly cultivate it.

Characteristic and Description

Sweet potato is a very ancient vegetable crop belonging to the genus Ipomoea of ​​the Vyunkov family. Scientists suggest that it began to be cultivated 5, 000 years ago in the foothills of the Andes, in what is now Peru and Colombia. Sweet potato was included in the diet of the Incas and Aztecs, and in 1493 it was he (and not the potato) that was first brought to Spain by Columbus and soon gained wide popularity in Europe and Asia. All the same Spaniards brought sweet potato to North America, and in the 19th century the USA became a country of industrial culture of this vegetable along with India and China.

Sweet potato has the following characteristics:

  • grows in the form of a low vine, with long (up to 5 m), creeping stems;
  • bush height does not exceed 18 cm;
  • tubers can reach 10 kg, although when grown in temperate latitudes, their weight is not more than 1-3 kg;
  • flowers are large, funnel, white, pink or light purple (rarely blooms in a temperate climate);
  • the shape of the fruit can be very diverse, both round and elongated;
  • skin color ranges from orange to red and brown;
  • the color of the pulp also depends on the variety and can be white, pink, purple, red.

Photo gallery

There are more than 200 varieties of this vegetable, its classification is extremely confused, takes into account many morphometric parameters (the shape of tubers, the color of the peel and pulp, and many others), causing controversy among agricultural technologists and botanists. Suffice it to say that there are four main categories of varieties (for their intended purpose):

  1. Vegetables (White, Purple, Nancy Hall, Japanese, Bonita) - with a high starch content and high yield.
  2. Dessert (Beauregard, Burgundy, Georgia Red) - with a high sugar content.
  3. Fodder (White Bouquet, Brazilian) - unpretentious, with a fresh taste.
  4. Decorative (Pink Frost, Margarita, Sweet Carolina).
In the Russian Empire, sweet potatoes began to be grown at the end of the 19th century in the subtropics of the Caucasus, and during the times of the USSR also in the southern regions of Ukraine and Central Asia. Research institutes in Sukhumi and Dushanbe carried out active experimental work on selection and study of varieties, but, unfortunately, the cultivation of sweet potatoes encountered a lack of demand among the population who preferred traditional potatoes, as well as storage problems of the obtained crop.

Did you know? Sweet potato, Jerusalem artichoke and yams are often confused, although these are completely different cultures. Yam is much larger and grows on the vine. Jerusalem artichoke has a tuberous surface, is popularly called an “earthen pear”, and its bush is much higher than that of sweet potato, and resembles a sunflower.

Now sweet potato is gradually occupying its lost position, because its newest varieties (usually varieties with purple skin) can be successfully grown even in Siberia and the Urals, which confirms the positive experience in obtaining high yields in Khakassia and Bashkortostan. In addition, sweet potato today is not uncommon for the Moscow Region and the suburban villages of St. Petersburg.

Advantages and disadvantages of culture

  • The vegetable crop in question has the following advantages:
  • high productivity;
  • comparative ease of cultivation;
  • variety of varieties;
  • excellent taste;
  • wealth of vitamins and minerals;
  • wide scope of application (cooking, cosmetology, traditional medicine).

  • The sweet potato also has disadvantages:
  • not recommended for sufferers of gastrointestinal tract diseases (irritating the mucous membrane);
  • contraindicated during pregnancy and lactation (due to the saturation of the fetus with the hormone progesterone);
  • excessive consumption can lead to the formation of kidney stones and gall bladder;
  • the inability to plant tubers;
  • long ripening;
  • inability to store in cellars and refrigerators.

Taste qualities

Most often, sweet potato is popularly called sweet potato, and for good reason: the taste of some vegetable varieties really resembles the characteristic aftertaste of frozen potato tubers. Other vegetable varieties may have a taste:

  • chestnut;
  • carrots;
  • Pumpkins
  • maize;
  • a nut;
  • beets.

Dessert varieties, due to their high glucose content, are similar to honey melon, bananas or pineapples. Fodder varieties are characterized by an inexpressive, watery taste.

Useful properties and calorie content

The beneficial effects of sweet potato on the body are difficult to overestimate. This is facilitated by a rich vitamin and mineral composition:

  • a large amount of beta-carotene;
  • vitamins C, K and B6;
  • iron;
  • zinc;
  • potassium;
  • phosphorus;
  • sodium;
  • magnesium;
  • folic acid.

Did you know? In the USA, sweet potato sweet potato is the product of the first feeding for children, and also appears instead of turnips in the American version of the famous fairy tale. If we compare the effect on the human body, then sweet potato is undoubtedly more useful than potato, due to the following properties:

  1. It has a general strengthening effect (supports immunity and metabolism, protects against infections, strengthens the nervous system).
  2. Due to its low glycemic index, it is suitable for people with diabetes.
  3. Helps reduce low-density lipoproteins, protects the cardiovascular system.
  4. It is recommended for inclusion in the diet for injuries and arthritis, has an anti-inflammatory effect.
  5. It is a natural antidepressant due to its high potassium content.
  6. Used by bodybuilders to gain muscle mass.
  7. Protects the body from free radicals, which entail the development of cancer.
  8. A natural source of the hormone progesterone, it is recommended for use during menopause.

The calorie content of sweet potatoes is slightly higher than that of potatoes - 85.8 kcal / 100 g.

Optimal landing times

As already mentioned, sweet potatoes are not planted with tubers, unlike potatoes (so as not to get a lot of shoots with small tubers of irregular shape). As seed material use:

  • cuttings from sprouted tubers;
  • seeds.
Landing in open ground depends on the specific climatic conditions and is performed after the threat of return night frosts, when the soil at a depth of 10 cm warms up to + 18 ° C. Cuttings begin to germinate from tubers in advance, 4-5 weeks before planting, that is, in March.

Seedlings from seeds should be grown in February, as it will sprout and grow for a long time. In open ground, seedlings are planted under the same temperature conditions as the cuttings.

Preparing for planting a sweet potato

When preparing for planting, you need to pay special attention to the choice of soil and planting material. The best soil for sweet potato is fertile and light, with a depth of groundwater of at least 2 m. For cultivation, the following soils are suitable:

  • loose pebbles;
  • humus-carbonate;
  • sandy;
  • sandy loam;
  • chernozems.
Ideal predecessors on the ground - legumes, as well as cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, pumpkin. For the prevention of disease, sweet potatoes can be returned to their original place no earlier than three years later.

For growing seedlings, a mixture of turf, sand and humus is taken. Before planting, the soil mixture is sanitized in the freezer or by calcination in the oven. To get planting material, you can purchase seeds in a specialized store or sprout tuber cuttings. The latter method is discussed below.

Landing technology

Planting in open ground is preceded by the germination of cuttings from tubers or growing seedlings from seeds. Consider the specifics of planting, depending on the planting material.


There are several methods for growing cuttings:

  1. The tubers deepen into the earthen substrate and are regularly moistened.
  2. The tuber is immersed in a glass with water 1-2 cm. Water periodically changes.
  3. The tuber is cut in half and germinated first on a wet surface (for example, on a wet towel), and then transferred to the ground. This method allows you to get more cuttings. The place of cut before germination is treated with crushed activated carbon for disinfection.

The temperature in the room during germination should be within +20 ... + 30 ° С. From one tuber you can get about 20 cuttings for planting. Germination tubers must be intact, without sunken spots. Important! Tubers purchased at the store will most likely not be able to germinate due to chemical treatment. They should be bought from acquaintances or ordered by mail in the warm season (tubers do not tolerate temperatures below + 10 ° C) . Two weeks before planting, the cuttings begin to harden, placing in the fresh air (first for 15 minutes, gradually increasing the time).

Cuttings ready for planting in the ground must meet the following requirements:

  • length - 15–25 cm;
  • the presence of 5 internodes at the site of future roots;
  • the presence of 5 leaves.

Video: How to grow sweet potato seedlings

The presence of roots in the planted cuttings is not necessary and not even desirable, this can lead to the formation of irregular tubers in sweet potato. The shank is deepened by 4–7 cm into specially prepared ridges (mounds 10–25 cm high), based on the following parameters:

  • the distance between the cuttings is 30–45 cm;
  • the distance between the beds is 0.8–1 m.
The most commonly used schemes are:

  • 75 × 50 cm;
  • 100 × 35 cm.
After planting, the cuttings are watered with water with fertilizers dissolved in it.


The seed planting method is most often used by breeders to create new varieties. Getting seeds at home is problematic due to the fact that many varieties do not bloom and do not produce seeds, especially in temperate climates. Seeds can be bought in online stores, but there you will have to look for them.

If you still have seeds available, then of them, first of all, you need to grow seedlings. For this:

  1. Seeds are soaked in warm water for 1-2 days to stimulate growth.
  2. You can sanitize the seeds in a weak solution of potassium permanganate.
  3. Seeds should be planted in pots with a diameter of 25 cm, filled with soil, deepening by 1.5–2 cm and sprinkling with soil.
  4. Future seedlings are watered and placed in a well-lit place with a temperature of at least + 20 ° C.
The seedling readiness for planting is the same as that of cuttings. For them, preliminary hardening is also carried out and planted in open ground according to the same scheme.

Crop care

Like other garden plants, sweet potatoes need to be watered, fertilized and protected from pests, following the simple rules discussed below.

Hilling and loosening the soil

As for such mechanical methods of soil care as hilling and loosening, this will not cause special trouble to the sweet potato owners. The first loosening to a depth of 5 cm is carried out 2-4 weeks after planting.

Loosening is required only 2 times, at the initial stage of growth, then the aisles are closed, and the lashes of the plant form a complex carpet. Before closing the row-spacing, the hilling procedure is performed once. At the same time, it is necessary to raise the stems in order to prevent their rooting in nodes, which is fraught with a decrease in yield. Important! It is recommended to mulch the bushes with film, straw or agrofiber to completely eliminate the need for weeding and cultivation.

Watering and fertilizing

This culture does not tolerate boggy soil, so it is better to water the sweet potato more often, but with a small amount of water, certainly warm. The first month and a half after planting in the ground, the bushes are watered daily, gradually reducing the multiplicity. Two weeks before harvesting, watering is stopped.

The main fertilizer application is made with a complex of minerals (for example, Nitrofoski or Novalona) along with watering during planting. Then, once every 2 weeks, fertilizers based on phosphorus and potassium are applied (Ecoplant, Kind Host, Plantafol). Feeding containing a large amount of nitrogen is not recommended. In mid-August, during the active formation of tubers, the plant needs additional potassium, therefore, infusion of wood ash is added to top dressing (1-2 cups per 10 liters of water, infused for a week).


Sweet potato propagates:

  • seeds (rarely, since most varieties have lost the ability to reproduce sexually);
  • vegetatively (sprouted cuttings)
If the sweet potato has blossomed, then it pleases the eye with beautiful, often white or pink flowers, similar to large bindweed. Cross-pollination of flowers is carried out by bees. The fruit is a 4-seed box with black or dark brown seeds.

Pest and Disease Control

Unlike potatoes, sweet potato is not damaged by the Colorado potato beetle and wireworm. However, May bugs (Khrushchev) do not remain indifferent to this culture. This pest should be tackled by trapping with the help of light traps, watering the soil with infusion of onion husks and attracting birds (construction of birdhouses). In addition to toffee, yam can suffer from aphids and spider mites. They are removed with a soap solution, and in case of severe infection, insecticides are used.

As for diseases, the sweet potato is resistant to late blight, but due to sensitivity to excess moisture it is susceptible to fungal diseases (for example, black rot). In this case, the damaged parts of the plant are removed, and the sections are treated with an antifungal drug. In the event of root rot, the entire bush with roots will have to be removed to prevent the spread of the disease. To prevent disease, the soil before planting is treated with organic fungicides, for example, Fitosporin.

Harvest dates

Compared to potatoes, sweet potato ripens for a long time, on average 3-4 months. Harvesting usually takes place in September-October, after the first autumn cold weather. The procedure is best done in sunny weather. The tubers are quite fragile, so you need to remove them carefully using a pitchfork. Dug up tubers are dried and sorted.

Only intact tubers are stored; others are allowed for processing. The tubers that will be stored are not washed, but kept in a warm, humid room (with a temperature of +28 ... + 32 ° C). Then they are placed in wooden or plastic boxes, wrapped in paper or sprinkled with sawdust, and stored in a dry, dark place at a temperature of +10 ... + 20 ° С.

Features and recommendations for cooking

In cooking, not only tubers are used, but also stalks (fried with garlic), leaves (for salads) and seeds (for making surrogate coffee).

Tubers can successfully replace potatoes in all well-known dishes:

  • mashed potatoes;
  • soups;
  • fries;
  • baking in the oven.

Did you know? Different peoples have their own recipes for cooking sweet potato. In winter, warming sweet potato and ginger soup is popular in China; in Uganda, tubers are dried and a tea-like drink is made from them; in Korea, noodles are made from tubers. The tuber is very boiled, so it’s better to cook it “in its uniform”. Sweet potatoes are also used for stuffing peppers, cooking cutlets, pies. Jam and candied fruit are prepared from dessert varieties.

Sweet potato dishes go well with hot spices (pepper, mustard), sour sauces, pickles. Sweet potatoes can also be eaten raw, but with caution, as it can cause an unpredictable reaction from the gastrointestinal tract.

Sweet potato is an extremely interesting vegetable, the numerous varieties of which are characterized by diverse tastes. Cultivating it is no more difficult than other garden crops, especially in the south and in the middle lane. However, in the northern regions it can also be grown, thanks to the advent of new cold-resistant varieties. Subject to the rules for care discussed in the article, sweet potato will give the owners an excellent harvest.

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