Sweet potato


Together with the traditional potato, the discovery of America has allowed Europeans to come into contact with another tuber that is very similar but with a decidedly different flavor: the sweet potato, from Central America. It is a tuber that grows at the base of stems that can reach up to three meters in height, and is distinguished from the traditional potato by its yellow or reddish skin and the floury pulp that can be of various shades, from yellow to pink. Currently the plant is also cultivated in Italy and is used for the production of alcohol and starch, but it is also widely used in the field of phytotherapy as a natural remedy against various types of problems. The consumption of sweet potatoes therefore falls into several categories, because it is part of the vegetables that are both food for daily nutrition and a specific food to counteract symptoms and ailments. In particular, the sweet potato is a popular food as it is highly energetic: it is a vegetable rich in carbohydrates and capable of providing up to 140 kg in those who consume it. The American potato, another name by which the sweet potato is known, is usually used for the preparation of desserts or baked in the oven and eaten with its peel. If in Europe the sweet potato has a relatively short history, it has already been rooted in Central American countries for five thousand years, both as a spontaneous food and as a food for vast crops: most of the sweet potatoes then marketed all over the world are in fact still produced in the developing countries of which the tuber originates and represents one of the foods at the base of the diet. In Italy, the regions that boast the greatest production are Veneto and Puglia.

Active ingredients and beneficial effects

Like the traditional potato, the sweet potato is also widely used in phytotherapy, for body care and beauty. Carotenes and anthocyanins are particularly effective against free radicals, but other elements also make the American potato an excellent food, including sodium, calcium, phosphorus and potassium. The peel, which can be eaten together with the potato, also contains caipo, a substance capable of reducing cholesterol and thus protecting against the risk of cardiovascular disorders. As with the traditional potato, if cut into slices and affixed to the skin, the sweet potato reveals emollient properties and can make the skin shiny and soft. The consumption of sweet potatoes is also recommended for women to delay the onset of menopause and to mitigate symptoms, such as hot flashes, thanks to the presence of progesterone in the tuber. The consumption of the sweet potato in its natural state has reduced effect; for this reason on the market there are also pills and tablets with extracts rich in the active ingredient, which however is best taken on the advice and supervision of the doctor.

Cultivation and use

The sweet potato can also be grown in Italy, although not everywhere, provided there is a mild climate and moist soil. The tubers are buried between the end of April and the beginning of May, while the harvest takes place between mid-August and the end of October. The various steps are, when possible, carried out by hand to avoid damage to the tubers during extraction. When planting the seedlings in the ground, it is advisable to take care to position them with the stem slightly inclined, so as to be able to take full advantage of the sun exposure. It is not always easy to find sweet potatoes on the counters of shops or markets throughout Italy; in any case, the period of maximum diffusion is the autumn one. The main use of sweet potatoes is linked to daily consumption during a regular diet, therefore the benefits can be found over time with regular, albeit not excessive, consumption. In some cases, it is possible to use the sweet potato also for external use: the starch contained in it makes it very useful for the beauty of the skin: it is sufficient to make compresses or place the sweet potato slices on the skin for some time, or still use the cooking water to soak your hands.

Sweet potato: Commercial products

The sweet potato has effective effects especially with regard to internal consumption; it is in fact mainly a food that in some countries is an integral part of daily nutrition. First of all food, therefore, the sweet potato also becomes a healing element and excellent function against specific symptoms and ailments, such as cholesterol or the annoyances related to the onset of menopause. For this reason, in addition to the traditional food distribution of tubers, pills containing the active ingredient are also available on the market, for which, however, it is advisable to consult a doctor and in any case not take too long.

Ipomoea batatas

Disambiguation - "American potato" refers here. If you are looking for cucurbits also known as American potato, see Marah oregana.

Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam. is a dicotyledonous angiosperm plant of the Convolvulaceae family used as food under the name of sweet potato or American potato [2].

Batata, the sweet potato or American potato

I planted one sweet potato on the big compost heap: the speed of development was impressive. So much so that at a certain point I had to put a limit and intervene by cutting all the jets that continued to stretch, otherwise I would have occupied a part of the nursery.

It is not a potato, they are not relatives, not even friends: theIpomoea batatas it's a convolvulus. In common they have the origin, both come from America.
Often, when it comes to the American potato, it is necessary to waste some time to explain the difference compared to the more common potato (Solanum tuberosum).

Until a few years ago of the American potato, also called batata or sweet potato, on the markets there was only the "white" one, especially the white pulp. Even as a child, I liked it, I was fascinated by everything that had a vaguely exotic flavor and its taste - boiled, better still baked in the oven - had something pleasantly sweet.
I tried to plant a couple of them, under the guidance of my dad who, I don't know how, already knew them 60-65 years ago, to the point of saying to me: "The season is too advanced, he won't have time to make potatoes".
I remember my enthusiasm as a child (I could have been 6-7 years old) in seeing the plant grow quickly, widening a couple of meters from the point where I had planted them: it developed much more than a traditional potato. But ... he was right, when the cold arrived I tried to uproot them thinking I would find the tubers, but I found nothing, only slender and long roots.

Varieties of sweet potato

As a "grown-up" I tried again, obtaining 2-3 boxes of tubers for each plant.
In reality, the sweet potato we eat is not a tuber but an enlarged root.

Then came the ones with orange peel and pulp. After those from intense violet skin and white pulp. But I was looking for the one from purple pulp. I had seen a photo on the internet but couldn't find it. It looked like it was in Japan.
Then, last year, in one of the 2-3 visits a year I make to a Vietnamese seller, I finally discover it! Incidentally, it is not quite what I was looking for.

Sweet potato, how to grow it

I planted one on the large pile of "tarò" (in Piedmontese), none other than the much celebrated compost, a continuously decomposing heap of all kinds of organic matter that every farmer close to home probably had since before the Middle Ages.
The development was impressive. One occupied me space of 80-100 square meters! At a certain point I decided not to let it grow anymore and I continually cut all the vegetation that would have continued to expand, otherwise it would have occupied a part of the nursery.
I finally got them. Starting from the outside, for 2-3 meters I was alone long violet roots, then began the first potatoes, at first thin, as big as a finger, then, as I got closer to the center, bigger and bigger. They were not only big, but also long, up to half a meter! Fill up 8 cassettes. I wonder in a tropical country, where the cold does not arrive and the plants continue to grow, what could a single plant produce!
In addition to the different varieties that produce edible root-tubers, numerous have appeared on the market in recent years ornamental cultivars. The beauty lies in the leaves, which are either violet or bright yellow in color: they grow rapidly forming beautiful spots of color. In all varieties, the bell-shaped flowers are beautiful but somewhat hidden by the leaves.

How to sprout the American potato


Making the American potato sprout is really child's play (who has never done it as a child?). Here we also give you two valuable tips to make it thrive in hydroponics

Very easy from cultivate in water, because it gives you an abundant cascade of leaves, the American potato (Ipomoea batatas) requires two small tricks.

  1. Wet it and leave it closed in a paper bag, in the dark, for ten days. In this way the you will stimulate to produce the roots when it will be brought to light.
  2. Put in the water a piece of charcoal: avoids the formation of rot. N.B .: to keep it suspended at the right height, do not use unsightly wooden sticks, just choose a pot of the right circumference to hold the potato.

  • Wet the American potato under the tap, dry it and leave it for ten days in the dark.
  • Put it in the jar with the water and a piece of charcoal.
  • To sprout, it wants a lot of light but not direct sun. In short you will have a cascade of leaves.

How to plant the American potato

Cultivation is also different: it does not start from the seed, much less from the tuber. They are used herbaceous cuttings produced from the same American potatoes. How to proceed? In Autumn you need to buy some American potato tubers to be stored in an environment that maintains the temperature above 15 ° C.

With the beginning of the spring proceed with the creation of the herbaceous cuttings: each tuber should be placed in a vase filled with soil for sowing and left out of the ground for about 1/3. The vase must be exposed to light and, as mentioned, kept in an environment from temperature that never drops below 12-15 ° C. The soil must be kept moist, but be careful not to overdo it with water. When the shoots reach i 15 cm, the pot can be placed outdoors to adapt to the external climate.

How to Grow Ornamental Sweet Potato Vines in Containers

Ornamental sweet potato plants provide visual interest during the summer months with their dramatic foliage and showy fuchsia and white flowers. Many gardeners prefer ornamental sweet potato vines for container gardens since they grow well in somewhat cramped conditions and quickly fill the planter with trailing stems that spill out and drape gracefully to the ground. Growing ornamental sweet potato vine is very straightforward and simple, but the plants must be provided with acidic soil, plenty of water and moderate sun to truly thrive.
. You need
half barrel container
Repotting soil
medium - sand grit
5-10-10 fertilizer ratio
pruning shears

Select a planting container large enough to accommodate the tubers of the ornamental sweet potato vine. Choose a half-barrel container or another large planter with a volume greater than 5 liters.

Place the container in a sunny spot that gets light to moderate shade in the hottest hours of the day. Avoid areas with hot oven, direct sunlight as the leaves wither from the heat of the day and cannot recover.
3 soil

Fill the container with a mixture of 4 parts potting, 1 part coarse sand and 1 part of milled peat moss or acid compost. Leave 2 cm of space between the surface of the soil and the top of the container.

moisten the soil before planting ornamental sweet potato vine. The water will flow over the surface until the first 4 inches feel moderately wet. Let the excess moisture drain for 10 to 15 minutes before planting the vine.

Ornamental plants the sweet potato vine in the center of the container if it is going to be the only plant in the container or plant towards the front edge if you plant others with it. Leave at least two inches of space between the plant and the edge of the container.

Maintaining soil moisture to a depth of 3 inches for the first week after planting the ornamental sweet potato vine. Decrease the water so that the soil dries to a depth of 2 cm between each watering.

Feed ornamental sweet potato vine twice during the growing season. Apply 5-10-10 fertilizer ratio to the plant in spring and midsummer. Follow the instructions on the label just when applying the fertilizer.

Prune the ornamental sweet potato vine as needed during the growing season to control its size. Cut to half the length of the screw using scissors. Eliminate the vines or use them to propagate new plants.

Cut the ornamental sweet potato vine to ground level in the fall before the first frost. Remove the tubers for winter storage, or leave them in the soil in temperatures above 55 degrees Fahrenheit until spring.

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