Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Shooting" Sweet Potatoes

Looking for a nearly effortless, sustainable, fresh food source? One that takes care of itself and requires the tiniest amount of watering about every 10 days? No matter how black your green thumb may be, you’ll be enjoying a delicious harvest in just four weeks. 

Before I became a stay at home mom (for a year) I was a 5th grade teacher who adored science and did multiple experiments with my 10 & 11 year old students.  What science fair would be complete without the sprouting sweet potatoes in soil vs. water experiment?  It’s easy and aside from watering, requires very little maintenance.  

So I did some research and to my surprise I found out that sweet potato greens are actually edible and are a common vegetable in Asian, African and Pacific Island cuisine. The leaves have a spinach like flavor to them and the shoots (harvested red, purple, or light green before they turn dark green & woody) remind me of tender asparagus when sauteed. The bonus? Sweet potato leaves are super healthy for you too & packed full of vitamin A, vitamin K, antioxidants, dietary fiber, essential fatty acids and folic acid (according to the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at Tuskegee University, Alabama). They also improve immune function, and help to fight against cancer cell growth & heart disease. Wow! Who knew, right!?  

I have always been a fan of the sweet potato tuber in pies, mashed, casseroles-you name it! But since our discovery of the edible greens I have a whole new appreciation for this diverse plant. Mike and I love to make sweet potato greens with a little minced garlic, olive oil, chopped mushrooms and salt and pepper.  They are great as a side vegetable the whole family gobbles up and the best part is they grow back in just a couple weeks. 


1) To grow your own sweet potato greens simply take a sweet potato and jab three toothpicks into the top third of the potato. 

2) Place in a mason jar so that the picks are holding the potato off the bottom of the jar.  

3) Fill the jar with water until just the bottom third of the potato is under water.  

4) Lastly, place in a windowsill and wait.  

Four of our Window Garden Sweet Potatoes.
Note : Pretty much any jar will do.
Here I have a mason jar, peanut butter jar and a beer mug.  

Various stages of growth.
Three weeks, Two week and One week. 

Roots taking over the bottom of the jar!
I like to use clear glass jars because you can see how the roots are progressing,
when it's time to water again, and if the water is getting a little funky and needs replacing.
Trust me...if the water is funky you will smell it before you see it ;O.
Just empty and refill. 

New shoots :)

Yummy sweet potato leaves ready for harvest.

Harvested leaves.  Because they are grown inside you don't have to wash them!
Another time saver!

Below: Finished product! Enjoy!

I’ve had shoots start to sprout within one week and some that don’t sprout until up to three weeks later.  It just seems to depend on the potato.  But once it starts sprouting it won’t be long before you find tiny reddish/purple vines shooting all over the place and thin white hair-like roots shooting from the bottom of the potato to soak up the water in the jar.

I’ve got my entire kitchen nook windowsill lined with them. They look beautiful as they grow, with the vines hanging down and, with the right container, look like some high priced Better Homes and Gardens display.  My family of four makes a side dish of the greens from 8 sprouting sweet potatoes every few weeks. We buy our sweet potato tubers for $0.79 a pound (
http://www.kroegelproduce.us/) so you really can't beat the fresh food investment. The best part is they keep on giving. My three original experiment potatoes have been sending out new vines for the past 6 months. They are now pretty shriveled and pathetic looking but the greens are still coming. Mike jokes that they should be taken out and shot but I have plans to "shoot" them one more time just for the pure food fun of it. So give it a try, you've got nothing to loose. :)

Research Sources: 


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