Sweet Potatoes in a container

(Question)

I began this conversation with Tina Cesaroni on the CBC web chat. I planted sweet potato slips about 3 months ago in a recycling bin and Tina suggested I ask here about curing sweet potatoes. I read about this online to optimize storage after they’re harvested. Can you please confirm if this is necessary and if so, any advice about how a hobby gardener without much equipment can do this? If it’s not necessary, how long can I store sweet potatoes without curing them?

Also Tina had recommended harvesting at Thanksgiving – they’re pretty tiny right now so if they’re not big enough by then or by the time we get frost, what can I do? It’s heavy but with some effort we could bring the bin indoors if necessary. Would it still require as much light if we bring them indoors?

Thanks in advance!

(Answer)

Tina gave you some very sound advice about harvesting sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batata). Generally, sweet potatoes have a long growing season, about 100 to 140 days to fully mature. Tina suggested harvest around Thanksgiving to allow for the tubers to grow to a mature state. However,  for 2015, the first Toronto frost date for the fall is October 6th, possibly not enough time to fully mature your harvest.

http://www.veseys.com/ca/en/ca/en/learn/reference/frost/canada

Sweet potatoes are not frost tolerant. You may be familiar with the ornamental kind of sweet potato vine often found in garden centres, used in containers for their attractive leaves. Sometimes, particularly in spring when the threat of frost is not over, these plants exhibit wilted leaves after an over night frost. The same can happen to your edible tubers, if not harvested in time during the fall.

Even though your tubers are small, according to the following article, the tubers can be harvested at any time. Just make sure they are harvested before the first fall frost. As for dragging the container inside, I do not recommend that, as it is unlikely that the tubers will grow bigger. You just might have to settle for smaller tubers, but the flavour will be just fine.

http://containergardening.about.com/od/containersyearround/ss/Growing-Sweet-Potatos.htm#step7

The article goes on to state that to keep full flavor of the tubers, curing is required. This would mean keeping them in a warm, dry place from 10 to 14 days.  I recommend placing them on a tray or rack, so they don’t touch each other for that period of time, to allow proper air circulation. The tubers can then be stored, preferably in a well ventilated area.