The sweet potato is a tropical vegetable which needs a long warm season of 110 days with temperatures of at least 30 degrees Celsius. The nights must also be fairly warm (above 20 degrees Celsius), that makes a commercial cultivation in northern Europe nearly impossible. And of course, just like every other crop with high leafage, it needs a high amount of water.
In May farmers start planting the small seedlings close to each other in breeding fields. Later in summer around the beginning of June, when the seedlings have grown into small plants, they are moved to bigger fields. Thousands of young sweet potato cuttings grow during the summer months. In warm temperatures on the surface, they form impressive leafage, while the roots grow below ground in a nutrient-rich soil.
After 150 days of growing, harvest season starts in September/ October. To protect the sensitive and thin skin, no mechanical harvesters are used. Seasonal workers pick up the roots manually and carry them in buckets to big storage boxes. On average, an American farmer harvests 15 to 20 tons per hectare, much less than a regular potato grower in Europe.
After the harvest farmers store the fresh crop in wooden crates in temperature controlled, well ventilated dry and dark storage barns. There the American sweet potato will stay in good condition for up to 12 months. During this time, the starch is converted into sugar, which creates their unique taste and develops their sweetness. Due to their storage time, American sweet potatoes are available the whole year round.
How to store American sweet potatoes at home.
They can be stored outside the refrigerator in a dark, cool, well ventilated place. You will then be able to keep the sweet potatoes for up to two weeks.