Porto Rico Sweet Potato
Porto Rico Sweet Potato
days to maturity: 100-110 days
plant spacing: 2 plant per square foot
sunlight requirements: 6-14 hours
look out for: whitefly hiding on the underside of the leaves
harvest notes: harvest tubers and cure them indoors to produce more sugars
If you've ever wanted to grow your own sweet potatoes but haven't due to lack of space, this variety may become your new summer favorite. Porto Rico "bunch" sweet potato vines will grow small and compact compared to the 15' vines common to other varieties. Above ground the plant's bushy, heart-shaped foliage is a pleasing dark green, and below ground the sweet potatoes develop a copper-colored skin with a sweet, pink flesh that is delicious when baked.
Sweet potatoes are great summer crops for your raised bed or your food forest since they love love love the heat, humidity and rain. It’s native to the New World, although the site of origin and the manner in which it originated are still unknown. Plants were distributed as far as New Guinea and New Zealand before the time of Columbus, the sweet potato was an important crop related to colonization and now it’s range has extended around the world, to both temperate and tropical zones.
This crop thrives in nutrient poor well draining soil, which we have plenty of here in South Florida. A great way to encourage the plant to produce more tubers for you is to regularly prune the vines and bonus: the leaves are edible! The greens are only edible when cooked (not raw) and contain Omega 3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, Vitamins A, C, K, and important B vitamins like B1, B2, B3, and B9. The sweet potato itself is a highly nutritious, calorie- filled root crop that packs less of a glycemic hit than grains, cassava or potatoes, and stores excellently.
Commercial growers cure their sweet potatoes in special rooms at 85 degrees Farenheit and 80% to 90% relative humidity for 5 to 10 days. Curing causes the conversion of starch to sugar and helps to heal cuts that could lead to rots. The roots are then stored for 6-8 weeks at 55 to 60 degrees to further increase the sugar content. Duplicating this process would be very difficult for home gardeners, but you can at least partially cure the roots by leaving them in a garage or sunroom for a week or so (keeping them outdoors would be too humid in the fall). Spreading the roots out on a screen in a single layer is best.
Sweet potato weevils are the main issue with growing this crop in south florida, as they eat small holes in your potatoes without you knowing. Whitefly on the underside of leaves are also an issue so make sure to check your plant throughout its growing season.
Sweet potato is a vining plant that will sprawl throughout your garden creating a beautiful dense ground cover, which is one reason why we love growing it in the summer instead of the fall, since it can be quite competitive in a small space where you are trying to grow other annuals. If you don’t have plans for your veggie bed in the summer consider planting a few sweet potatoes and using them as a cover crop, to protect your soil from erosion and weeds. Once you buy one sweet potato plant from us you can use it to make yourself a whole farms worth of new plants if you want to, as the growing tips of the vines can be cut to 6 inch lengths, popped into a jar of water and in 6 days you'll have a fully rooted new plant.