The sweet potato is well-adapted to our hot, humid summers. Besides the roots that we normally eat, young leaves of sweet potato can be consumed as well. They can be sauteed, boiled, or even eaten raw.
Growing sweet potatoes is different from growing white (“Irish”) potatoes or vegetables that are grown from true seed. The production cycle begins when sweet potatoes (“seed”) from the previous harvest season are planted in the spring, to produce slips for transplanting.
Gardeners who just want to plant a few hills of sweet potatoes can often find slips for sale at local garden centers. They can be planted between late April and the end of June in southern Louisiana.
Those who plan to plant a large area of sweet potatoes or want a specific variety may prefer to grow their own slips. Sweet potatoes can be bedded for slip production beginning around mid-March in southern Louisiana. Allow six to eight weeks for slips to grow.
It’s important that the roots used for slip production be free of disease and of good quality. The LSU AgCenter’s Sweet Potato Research Station offers seed potatoes grown from virus-tested planting material through its foundation seed program.
The variety Beauregard is available for $25 per 40-pound box. Bayou Belle, Bonita, Burgundy, Murasaki, Orleans, Porto Rico, and Sakura are available at $16 per 20-pound box. Quantities of Evangeline are limited this year, so roots are not offered at this time, but the Sweet Potato Research Station will sell Evangeline slips in the spring.
Beauregard is a classic Louisiana sweet potato variety that was released by the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station in 1987. Orleans is similar to Beauregard but produces more uniform roots. This is important for commercial growers who are trying to maximize production of U.S. No. 1 grade sweet potatoes but probably not that important in a home garden.
Evangeline produces roots that have a high sucrose content and taste especially sweet. While microwaving typically does not result in sweet potatoes that are as sweet as those baked in an oven, because of its high sucrose content, Evangeline sweet potatoes can be microwaved and still taste sweet. From a production standpoint, Evangeline has the advantage of being resistant to root knot nematodes.
Information about other varieties can be found on the LSU AgCenter Sweet Potato Research Station’s website.
The Sweet Potato Research Station has begun taking seed orders via an online form (https://lsu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_b8xaiTEQ6rdw610). Orders submitted online are due by Friday, January 12, 2024. If you’re in Tangipahoa or Washington Parish and do not have internet access, please contact me by Monday, January 8, 2024, to place your order.
Under sweetpotato weevil quarantine regulations, growers in Louisiana who raise sweet potatoes to sell are required to have a Sweet Potato Dealer’s Permit from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Home gardeners are not required to have a permit but are encouraged to take measures to reduce weevil populations.
Let me know if you have questions.
Dr. Mary Helen Ferguson is an Extension Agent with the LSU AgCenter, with horticulture responsibilities in Washington and Tangipahoa Parishes. Contact Mary Helen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 985-277-1850 (Hammond) or 985-839-7855 (Franklinton).