Sweet potatoes (yes, the new spelling is one word) are grown in the tropics, making a long-trailing vine with yellow or lavender flowers that seldom go to seed.
They flourish in warm climes growing from late spring till frost. In cooler climes, they seldom flower, but can produce their tubers if planted in a warm sheltered spot.
They are the most drought hardy veggie out there; growing well even in the hot Florida summers. No wonder they are the potato of choice in the south.
In the Landscape
Do not confuse the ornamental purple and lime green leaved varieties of sweetpotato vine with the veggie varieties. The ornamental varieties do not produce tubers! Real sweetpotato plants make a great ground cover also in the ornamental garden. Even without flowers, the leaves are large and lush, looking attractive for most of their season.
There are a couple varieties that have a bushy growth for small beds or even containers.
In the Kitchen
Sweet potatoes are very popular now with more vitamins than white potatoes and are a better choice for diabetics or those watching their carb intake. Funny, although they are sweeter than white potatoes, they have lower carbs.
Use them baked, fried, pureed, grilled, roasted or mashed (although you may want to blend with white potatoes as the flavor of mashed sweets is quite potent and rich). Add 1 sweetpotato to soups and stews for rich flavor and color. In the south, they are the potato to use for a classic “steak and potato” dinner. Usually dressed up with butter, cinnamon and brown sugar, these potatoes are equally delicious spiced up with peppery seasonings.
Growing Organic Sweet Potatoes
Although the vines may be attacked by slugs and other pests making them unattractive, the tubers can develop in good shape with little marring.
Don’t leave them in the soil too long as then will become susceptible to soil parasites.