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.
- Vegetables (White, Purple, Nancy Hall, Japanese, Bonita) - with a high starch content and high yield.
- Dessert (Beauregard, Burgundy, Georgia Red) - with a high sugar content.
- Fodder (White Bouquet, Brazilian) - unpretentious, with a fresh taste.
- Decorative (Pink Frost, Margarita, Sweet Carolina).
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.
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:
- a nut;
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;
- 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:
- It has a general strengthening effect (supports immunity and metabolism, protects against infections, strengthens the nervous system).
- Due to its low glycemic index, it is suitable for people with diabetes.
- Helps reduce low-density lipoproteins, protects the cardiovascular system.
- It is recommended for inclusion in the diet for injuries and arthritis, has an anti-inflammatory effect.
- It is a natural antidepressant due to its high potassium content.
- Used by bodybuilders to gain muscle mass.
- Protects the body from free radicals, which entail the development of cancer.
- A natural source of the hormone progesterone, it is recommended for use during menopause.
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;
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;
- sandy loam;
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:
- The tubers deepen into the earthen substrate and are regularly moistened.
- The tuber is immersed in a glass with water 1-2 cm. Water periodically changes.
- 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.
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.
- 75 × 50 cm;
- 100 × 35 cm.
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.
- Seeds are soaked in warm water for 1-2 days to stimulate growth.
- You can sanitize the seeds in a weak solution of potassium permanganate.
- 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.
- Future seedlings are watered and placed in a well-lit place with a temperature of at least + 20 ° C.
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.
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)
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.
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;
- 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.