Patricia M. Arledge, Sharpe, Kenneth W. | 11/5/2013 11:52:12 PM
News Article for October 14, 2013:
We all want fresh produce because just picked is the best. Well, maybe not exactly with sweet potatoes.
The fall sweet potato harvest is going on now. In Louisiana we will get started in August but then the bulk of the potatoes are harvested in September, October and November.
After harvest it takes a curing period for sweet potatoes to reach their peak sweetness, so I would not harvest your potatoes and then stick them in the oven to bake immediately. These fresh dug potatoes are usually referred to green potatoes.
Since the potatoes are grown underground and we have to dig them, it is important to heal the potatoes first. The process will heal all of the skinned spots and cuts on the outside of the potatoes. To accomplish this potatoes are stored at 85-90ºF at 85-95% relative humidity for 4-7 days. This healing process improves the appearance of the sweet potatoes and reduces the incidence of diseases in storage.
Next, sweet potatoes are placed in storage to cure for 7-8 weeks. The ideal curing occurs at 55-60ºF and relative humidity of 85-95%. During this time the sweet potatoes will convert starches in the potato to sugars and then the potatoes will be at the maximum sweetness and of an excellent quality to bake.
So how can you tell if the sweet potatoes are cured and sweet? You cannot tell by looking, you will have to ask. I like to buy my sweet potatoes at least a month before Thanksgiving and then I can bake them a few at a time but they should be sweet for the end of November and on into Christmas. It takes a few weeks to get potatoes into the market place so 4-6 weeks should be plenty of time for you to hold them. Just store them in as cool a place as possible but not inside the refrigerator. Sweet potatoes that are stored in the refrigerator will develop a hard center and be of low quality. You can eat them candied until they are sweet enough to bake.
If you are growing your own sweet potatoes you can gauge harvest time based on how long they have been planted. The variety Beauregard is one of the most popular varieties because of its high quality and sweetness. Beauregard will consistently be ready to harvest in 90 days from planting and will yield a high percentage of No. 1 sweet potatoes. No. 1 is a size grade in which the potatoes are 3 to 9 inches long and 1¾ to 3½ inches in diameter, weighing no more than 18 ounces. If you let the sweet potatoes grow longer they will continue to increase in size and will make really big sweet potatoes that we usually refer to as jumbos.
Check the ends and sides of the potatoes for any small pin holes. This would indicate sweet potato weevil damage. Sweet potato weevils give the potatoes a bitter taste.
Beauregard is a good looking sweet potato with a light rose colored skin and a good tasting, sweet, orange flesh. Add mustard greens, pork chops, and cornbread and enjoy!