The Vegetable Garden

Potato, Sweet

    Sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas, is a tender, warm-weather vegetable that requires a long frost-free growing season to mature large, useful roots. Sweet potato is native to Central and South America. It is one of the most important food crops in tropical and subtropical countries, where both the roots and tender shoots are eaten as a vital source of nutrients. Commercial production in the United States is mainly in the southern states, particularly North Carolina and Louisiana.

    Sweet potatoes, which are related to the morning glory, grow on trailing vines that quickly cover the soil, rooting at the nodes along the way. "Bush" varieties with shorter vines are available for situations where space may be limited.

    Though orange-fleshed varieties are most common today, white or very light yellow-fleshed types were once considered the finest types for sophisticated people. Some white-fleshed types are still available, though they may be hard to find outside the Deep South.

    For their ornamental value, sweet potatoes are often grown as ground cover or in hanging baskets, in planters and even in bottles of water in the kitchen. Cut-leaf types exist that are particularly attractive. The sweet potato is rich in vitamin A. It is not related to the yam, though in the marketplace the two names are often used interchangeably. The true yam, Dioscorea sp., is an entirely separate species that grows only in the tropics.


    • Beauregard (100 days to harvest, light purple skin, dark orange flesh, extremely high yielder from Louisiana State University)
    • Bush Porto Rico (110 days, compact vines, copper skin, orange flesh, heavy yield)
    • Centennial (100 days; orange skin, flesh; good keeper; resistant to internal cork, wilt)
    • Georgia Jet (100 days, red skin, orange flesh, somewhat cold tolerant)
    • Jewell (100 days, orange flesh, good yield, excellent keeper)
    • Sumor (ivory to very light yellow flesh, may be substituted for Irish potatoes in very warm regions)
    • Vardaman (110 days, golden skin, orange flesh, compact bush type, young foliage purple)

    Commercial production is currently dominated by Jewell in North Carolina and Beauregard in Louisiana.