November 25, 2013

Eating well from the root cellar


My favorite root vegetable is the sweet potato. Did you know that we can grow them up here in the north? Traditionally these starchy tuberous roots come to our supermarkets after being grown in the south. But several years ago our farm decided to experiment with planting them here. The catalog said it was possible, so why not give it a try?

We tried our best to simulate southern growing conditions using raised beds covered in black plastic mulch to warm the soil early. We planted the “slips” (small bare-root sweet potato plants) into holes in the plastic and waited. It was kind of a gardening miracle. The plants vined out beautifully, covering the beds and smothering competing weeds. They had no pests that we could detect, probably because they haven’t found their way to northern climes yet, and the deer did not venture into the center of our garden. Our nice light sandy loam and irrigation system were helpful as well.

In late September we dug around under the plastic and were amazed at the treasures beneath. The sweet potatoes were monstrously huge. A particularly memorable one weighed 8 pounds and fed us for a week, still deliciously sweet in its giant size. We’ve never looked back and now enjoy sweet potatoes for a couple of months (they don’t store for nearly as long as regular potatoes).

Does your farmer grow sweet potatoes? Hope you can find some for the Thanksgiving table. Visit to find your local farmer.

Laurie Davis is an educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Essex County and is the coordinator for Adirondack Harvest. Reach her at 962-4810, Ext. 404, or by email:

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Peter Black: Canadian Dispatch
Lois Clermont, Editor

Cornell Cooperative Extension

Richard Gast: Cornell Ag Extension

Bob Grady

Guest Columns

Peter Hagar: Cornell Ag Connection

Health Advice
Ray Johnson: Climate Science
Gordie Little: Small Talk
Terry Mattingly: On Religion

Steve Ouellette: You Had To Ask

Colin Read: Everybody's Business

Pinch of Time