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How to Harvest and Cure Sweet Potatoes

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Learning how to harvest and cure sweet potatoes is easy, and sweet potatoes are one of the simplest vegetables to grow in the home garden. Sweet potatoes are a warm season crop that are best planted in summer and harvested in the fall. Let’s find out how to harvest them!

Freshly harvested sweet potatoes

Why Grow Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are perfect to grow in the home garden whether you have a row garden, raised bed garden, or are growing in containers. They are one of the most popular vegetables to grow because they are easy to grow and produce a large yield.

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Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamins and minerals, and they can be used in a variety of recipes. Most kids don’t balk at the thought of eating sweet potatoes, so that’s a bonus!

Sweet potatoes are also easy to store to use all winter long. They will keep for several months if stored in a cool, dark place making them an ideal crop for those looking to have vegetables for the winter, but don’t want to can or freeze to preserve. (You certainly can freeze sweet potatoes though, and I have a post about that here.)

Tools for harvesting sweet potatoes

There isn’t much needed to harvest sweet potatoes at home. But here are some recommended items for harvesting those gems without damaging them:

That’s it! And sometimes I skip the gloves altogether and just put my hands right in the soil. As long as you have a decent nail brush, you’ll be able to get your hands nice and clean afterwards.

When to Harvest Sweet Potatoes

How do you know when to harvest sweet potatoes? Most sweet potatoes are ready to harvest about 100 days after planting, but do check the specific variety that you’re planting as some are ready before others.

Pro tip: when you plant your sweet potatoes, take note of the harvest time and set a reminder in your calendar. This way you’re not trying to remember exactly when you planted and when the sweet potatoes should be ready.

You can also judge if sweet potatoes are ready to harvest by harvesting one or two to check their size or by simply digging around the potatoes and looking at them. Then you can judge whether they need more time or are ready to harvest.

The best time to harvest sweet potatoes is in the morning after the leaves have had a chance to dry off from the dew. This is true for many crops in the home garden, but if you can’t get to them in the morning, then just harvest when you can.

How to harvest sweet potatoes:

  1. Begin by cutting off all of the trailing foliage from the plant. This gives you a clearer space to work with. Set aside the leaves and limbs to dry out and add to your compost pile.
  1. Next, loosen the soil around the base of the plant with a garden fork or spade. You don’t want to dig too deeply as you run the risk of damaging the potatoes that are close to the surface. Gently lift up on the sweet potato vines and see if any potatoes have fallen off on their own. These can be harvested and set aside. If the potatoes are still clinging to the vines, then use your fork or spade to loosen the soil around the potato and carefully lift it out of the ground. Be very careful not to damage or bruise the sweet potatoes as you harvest them.
  1. Set the sweet potatoes in your harvesting basket or aprons while you finishing digging through the soil to find any remaining sweet potatoes.
  2. Once all sweet potatoes have been harvested, it’s time to cure them.

How to Cure Sweet Potatoes

Curing sweet potatoes is an essential step in developing the sweet flavor we all love and in preserving them for long-term storage. Curing allows the potatoes to heal any cuts or bruises from harvesting and also helps them to develop a tougher skin. This tough skin will help to prevent them from drying out and becoming shriveled in storage.

Curing sweet potatoes is simple, but it does take a bit of time and a humid environment. Since we live in the south, humidity is pretty easy to get, but here are two different ways to cure sweet potatoes:

  1. Paper bag method: For years, this was my go-to method. I simply place my sweet potatoes in a brown paper bag and close it up. Then I set the bag in a warm, dark place for about 10 days. This can be on top of your fridge, in a cupboard, or next to a vent where heat comes out. This is perfect if you don’t have an huge harvest.
  1. Greenhouse or Cold frame method: I used our homemade cold frame to cure my larger crop of sweet potatoes this year. Essentially, I set our unwashed, newly harvested sweet potatoes on metal shelves we had left over from our old greenhouse. I set these on bricks so the potatoes wouldn’t be sitting on the ground. I then covered them in an old towel to keep in the moisture. (See my post on how to build your own cold frame or small green house)
mini greenhouse

Whichever method you choose, you’ll leave the potatoes to cure for one to two weeks. This allows the potatoes to form a protective skin and also develops that sweetness we all crave.

After the sweet potatoes have cured, they’re ready to store or to use in your favorite recipes. I typically just wash them right before using as they store better when they’re unwashed.

That’s it! I hope you’ll give sweet potatoes a try in the home garden since they really are an easy and productive crop to grow at home. Have sweet potato harvesting tips? Drop a comment below and let us know!

Yield: one harvest

How to Harvest and Cure Sweet Potatoes

sweet potatoes harvested

Sweet potatoes are easy to grow at home. Learn how to harvest sweet potatoes and how to cure them for the sweetest flavor.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Active Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 7 days
Total Time 7 days 30 minutes
Difficulty Easy

Materials

  • Garden Fork or Spade
  • Garden Gloves
  • Roo Apron or Harvest Basket

Instructions

  1. Begin by cutting off all of the trailing foliage from the plant. This gives you a clearer space to work with. Set aside the leaves and limbs to dry out and add to your compost pile.
  2. Next, loosen the soil around the base of the plant with a garden fork or spade. You don't want to dig too deeply as you run the risk of damaging the potatoes that are close to the surface. Gently lift up on the sweet potato vines and see if any potatoes have fallen off on their own. These can be harvested and set aside. If the potatoes are still clinging to the vines, then use your fork or spade to loosen the soil around the potato and carefully lift it out of the ground. Be very careful not to damage or bruise the sweet potatoes as you harvest them.
  3. Set the sweet potatoes in your harvesting basket or aprons while you finishing digging through the soil to find any remaining sweet potatoes.
  4. Once all sweet potatoes have been harvested, it's time to cure them.

To Cure Sweet Potatoes:

  • Paper bag method: For years, this was my go-to method. I simply place my sweet potatoes in a brown paper bag and close it up. Then I set the bag in a warm, dark place for about 10 days. This can be on top of your fridge, in a cupboard, or next to a vent where heat comes out. This is perfect if you don't have an huge harvest.
  • Greenhouse or Cold frame method: I used our homemade cold frame to cure my larger crop of sweet potatoes this year. Essentially, I set our unwashed, newly harvested sweet potatoes on metal shelves we had left over from our old greenhouse. I set these on bricks so the potatoes wouldn't be sitting on the ground. I then covered them in an old towel to keep in the moisture.
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