Have you ever noticed how beautiful the leaves of sweet potato plants are? Did you even know that sweet potato have leaves? Well they do. And while growing, this delicious root vegetable is actually quite a gorgeous plant. And if that’s not enough, I recently learned that sweet potato leaves are also a tasty, nutritious vegetable all on their own.
It seems that in some other countries sweet potato greens are a regular part of the basic diet but have gone relatively unused here in the States. However, a recent article published in HortScience Journal (abstract) noted that the leaves have 3 times more vitamin B6, 5 times more vitamin C, and 10 times more riboflavin than the tuber itself, so we just may be seeing more of this leafy green in the markets.
Growing sweet potatoes is all too easy here in the South. To harvest the tubers we are accustomed to, we usually plant the vines, called slips, sometime around May and let them grow all summer for an early fall harvest.
You can harvest leaves as the roots grow, as they are very abundant. However, you can also plant slips now to harvest just the leaves until the first frost. To get slips, simply purchase an organic sweet potato, sit it in the pantry and wait for vines to start growing.
The picture here shows vines, or slips starting to grow on one I have in my pantry.
Snap these vines off and place them in water and a sunny window to begin rooting like you see here. Roots will form in just a few days. After the roots reach several inches or so, plant them in a pot or in the ground.
Another way to grow leaves quickly is to simply put a sweet potato, pointy side down, in a jar of water. Make sure a couple of inches of the tuber is covered by the water. You can stick toothpicks in the sides of the potato to hold it up if the mouth of the jar is too wide. Place in a sunny window and wait for the vines to start growing.
Harvest leaves as you need them to use fresh in salads or smoothies. You can also saute them in a bit of olive oil with garlic for an alternative to spinach. The leaves are said to taste a lot like spinach, but without the sharp taste and residue that the other vegetable can leave in the mouth.
So that’s it! You can grow your own leafy greens in as little as 3 weeks. Now go out and get your green on in a new way!