growing sweet potatoes in vermont

Growing Sweet Potatoes in Vermont

Every year, we at Red Wagon Plants partner up with the Vermont Community Garden Network to grow out and sell sweet potato plants that you can then plant in your own gardens.

This year, our Sweet Potato Slip Sale is June 7th and 8th,

8 am to 6pm at our Hinesburg greenhouses

Many people are surprised that Sweet Potatoes can grow in Vermont, but they do very well when started in a greenhouse to root and then transplanted in June once the soil is warm. They prefer sandy, warm soils in full sun and are not particularly heavy feeders (no need to fertilize them if you have relatively good soil). We have some customers who grow them every year in big containers made out of chicken wire and black landscape fabric. This allows the roots of the plants to get really warm and when harvest time comes around, you can just un-peel the fencing and dig into the mound to harvest the sweet potatoes. You can read all about this method here.  They store really well - just let them dry a few days in a dark spot that is well vented. They are best stored around 50F degrees, not in a cool root cellar or refrigerator.

Some of our favorite things to do with sweet potatoes: roast them, mash them, make a pie with them, or grate them up for a vegetable hash with a fried egg. They are so easy to grow and are a wonderful addition to any garden.

Growing Instructions for Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato slips are cuttings that come from a parent vine. The slips grow best in a loose, sandy or silty soil that drains well. If sweet potatoes are grown in a rich dark soil they may discolor but are still good to eat. • Transplant the slips into garden beds during June, preferably in the late afternoon or on an overcast day. When transplanting, lay the slips on their sides with 2/3 of the slip buried a half inch under the soil. Water enough to keep the soil moist, but not saturated. • Plant the slips 10 to 18 inches apart in rows that are three to four feet apart. The rows or raised bed should be elevated 4 to 8 inches above the ground level to allow the sweet potatoes room to form. • Keep the cuttings watered while they are getting established. The leaves that were originally on the planted slips will dry up and fall off leaving just the vine stem. New leaves will emerge from the cuttings as the slips become established. • The sweet potato vines will cover the ground reaching 5 to 10 feet in length. Hoe around the vines to cultivate weeds and mulch with hay if desired. • Deer love sweet potato leaves, so be sure your planting area is fenced if deer are aproblem. A flying gold colored beetle may chew round holes in the leaves. The vines are tough and will keep growing despite insect damage. • Sweet potatoes are dug and harvested in late September through mid October, a day or two before the first predicted frost. Most of the sweet potatoes will be just below the parent plant. Each plant can produce up to six sweet potatoes. • After harvesting, dry the sweet potatoes on the ground for two or three hours. Allow them another 10 to 14 days to cure at room temperature or above, before storing the sweet potatoes at a temperature between 50 and 60 degrees F. • Unlike Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes should not be kept cold in a garage, refrigerator or outbuilding. If properly cured and stored, they will keep until April. Enjoy!

Sweet Potatoes in a Customer's Garden

We had some very innovative customers today who showed us photos of their garden, including some homemade containers for sweet potato vines. Here are the photos. Take a look and please know that we love to see what you are up to!  There is so much to learn from each other....

You can follow their whole process by seeing the pbotos and reading the caption in this photo album. Inspiring and informative!

What to do with Sweet Potato Slips

We're so excited for this weekend's sale of sweet potato plants, and want to make sure everyone has what they need to enjoy these wonderful plants.

Here's a link to the information we'll be handing out to everyone who comes out to the greenhouses for the sale.

You can grow them in containers too.  They look beautiful in containers and whiskey barrels, apple crates, five gallon buckets with holes drilled out for drainage are all great, low cost options.

We recommend Fort Vee as a growing medium for containers, as we do for all container plants.  Sweet potatoes need a loose and well-drained soil, whether in a container or in the ground.

By now you're wondering how many plants you should get, and how many things you can cook with your sweet potatoes.  Here are some recipes to tempt you:

We hope to see you this weekend!

Sweet Potato & Milk Recipe Contest

We are holding our Second Annual Sweet Potato Slip Sale to benefit Friends of Burlington Gardens this Saturday and Sunday (6/5/10 & 6/6/10)  from 10 am to 6 pm both days.   We will provide 4.5" pots of rooted sweet potato slips (4 to a pot) for $5.00 each. This will provide you with tremendous yields of this delicious "super-food." Also on Saturday, June 5th, our neighbors at Family Cow Farmstand will be holding an open house from 11 am to 3 pm. You can meet their adorable cows, taste their creamy, rich, raw milk and even help build the new stone calf corral with Charley MacMartin from Queen City Soil and Stone.  It's a great way to meet all the great businesses based here at 2408 Shelburne Falls Rd in Hinesburg.

crop food tour burlington 017
crop food tour burlington 017

To celebrate this joint effort, we are holding a fun and friendly contest. Everyone is invited to submit a recipe that uses both sweet potatoes and milk by 5:00 on Friday 6/4 - online via email at julie(AT)redwagonplants(DOT)com or on Facebook. We will post all of the recipes on our website, and on Saturday morning we will announce the winner of the contest.   The winner will receive a $25 gift certificate to Red Wagon Plants and a free gallon of milk from Family Cow Farmstand.

Here is the first recipe we have received so far.

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup Recipe

from Carin Laughlin Hoffman (5/31/10) INGREDIENTS 2 Tbsp (1/4 stick) butter 1 cup chopped onion 2 small celery stalks, chopped, greens reserved 1 medium leek, sliced (white and pale green parts only) 1 large garlic clove, chopped 1 1/2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 5 cups) 4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth (use vegetable broth for vegetarian option) 1 cinnamon stick 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 1/2 cups half and half 2 Tbsp maple syrup The leafy tops of the celery stalks, chopped METHOD 1 Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add chopped celery stalks and leek, sauté about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes. 2 Add sweet potatoes, chicken stock, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. 3 Remove cinnamon stick and discard. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return to pot. 4 Add half and half and maple syrup and stir over medium-low heat to heat through. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool soup slightly. Cover and refrigerate soup and celery leaves separately. Bring soup to simmer before continuing.) Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with celery leaves. Serves 6 to 8.

Here is an another recipe from Melissa Meese  (6/1/10)

Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits 1 C. of mashed sweet potatoes 1 Tbs. baking powder... See More 2 Tbs. packed brown sugar 1 tsp. of salt 1/2 C. butter, room temp 1/2 tsp. baking soda 2 cups all-purpose flour 3/4 C. buttermilk

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Combine flour, baking powder & salt in a large bowl. In a mixing bowl, combine sweet potato, brown sugar and butter. Beat at low-med. speed until fluffy. Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk. Stir buttermilk & sweet potato mixture alternately into dry ingredients. Roll dough 1" thick. Cut with floured 2" round cutter.

Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder

From Nora Doyle-Burr (of Last Resort Farm - a great farm stand and pick-your own berry farm)

(serves 6-8) 8 ears corn, husked and silked 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth 2 tablespoons butter 1 leek, white and tender green parts, thinly sliced 1 garlic clove, minced 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced Salt 1 1/2 cups milk 1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste Freshly ground black pepper

1) Strip the kernels from the corn and set aside. Combine the broth and corncobs in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain, discarding the cobs and reserving the broth. It should now be infused with corn flavor.

2) Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the leek and saute until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for another 2 minutes.  Add the stock, corn kernels, sweet potatoes, and salt to taste.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

3) Add the milk and sugar.  Season with the pepper.  Taste and season with more salt, sugar, and pepper, if desired. Simmer for 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Adapted from "Serving Up the Harvest:  Celebrating the Goodness of Fresh Vegetables" by Andrea Chesman

From Clare Joy of Shelburne, VT

Sweet Potato Bake Ingredients: 3 sweet potatoes, sliced thinly 1 lb Emmentaler (Swiss) Cheese, grated 1 pint cream Some herbs of your choice, optional (I like a little lemon thyme) Salt & pepper

Directions: Layer the sweet potatoes sprinkling over the cheese and seasonings as you go.  Top with a layer of cheese.  Pour the cream slowly in one corner so it spreads across the bottom of the dish but not over the top of the other ingredients. Bake covered for 1 hour at 350 degrees then remove the cover and bake a further 15-30 mins.  until all the liquid is absorbed. Enjoy!

from Carolyn Siccama

Velvety Squash (and Sweet Potato) Soup

1 (3 pound) butternut squash (*I have used many different types of squash in this recipe, Delacata is particularly good) 1 (2 pound) acorn squash* 1 sweet potato 2 cups chopped onion 2 tsp canola oil 5 cups veggie broth 2/3 cup apple cider (when I don't have cider I use applesauce and it works just as well) 2 tablespoons molasses 1 tsp curry powder 3/4 tsp salt 1/8 tsp ground red pepper 2/3 cup milk

Peel and cut squash and sweet potato into small cubes and cook in boiling water until soft.

In another pan, saute onion until soft. Add cooked squash & sweet potato. Stir in broth and next 5 ingredients (through pepper). Reduce heat. simmer 5 minutes.

Place half of squash mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.  Repeat until all soup is blended (I do like to leave a few chunks of squash and potato un-blended).  Return everything to the pan. Stir in milk.  Cook over medium heat until thoroughly heated.  Enjoy!

Vermont Sweet Potato Milkshakes & Creamsicles

From Deirdre Holmes

1 sweet potato (med-sized) 2 cups milk 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or maple liqueur) 3-4 ice cubes crystalized ginger (optional) lime or lemon juice (optional)

1. Bake washed whole sweet potato in a 400º oven for approximately 45 minutes or until soft. 2. Remove peel and put insides into blender or food processor. 3. Add Lindsay's finest whole milk including cream layer, maple syrup and ice cubes, and pulse until smooth. You can adjust the consistency by adding more milk or ice cubes. 4. If you're agreeable to adding a few non-local ingredients, several pieces of crystalized ginger, juice of 1/4 of a lime or lemon, and/or your favorite pumpkin pie spices make delicious additions. 5. For Creamsicles, pour this mixture into a popsicle mold and freeze.