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De overige ingrediënten mengen tot een dikke saus.
Alles door elkaar mengen.

Sweet potatoes, for growings sake of hoe zoete aardappelen te kweken

categorieën: producten, Tuinieren

zoete_aardappel_plant zoete_aardappel

By Barbara Damrosch
December 10, 2009 (met toestemming overgenomen)

The success of a crop is not always measured in pounds, bushels or pecks. Sometimes it's the joy of growing it. Take the sweet potato. The first one I ever "planted" was stuck in a glass of water, pointy end down, supported by toothpicks. I set it on the sunny bathroom windowsill of my college dorm room, and over spring break its vines grew so fast that they covered the window, becoming a sort of dorm pet.

Sweet potato vines, closely related to morning glories, are beautiful to look at, their heart-shaped leaves often tinged with purple. It's not surprising that ornamental varieties have been bred, in striking shades such as chartreuse and black. But the swollen roots are the main thing: delicious, rich in vitamin A and a great winter food if properly stored at 55 degrees.

The sweet potato bears no relation to the regular Irish potato, nor to the yam, although they are sometimes sold under that name. They're usually grown from slips, which are small rooted plants. You could produce these slips just as I did on that windowsill, from a root you know has not been treated to prevent sprouting.

Just twist off the young shoots when they are about eight inches tall, root them indoors in pots, then transplant them in the garden in the spring when frost danger has passed and the soil has warmed. But it is simpler and more reliable to order certified disease-resistant slips from a grower. Both Steele Plant Co. (http://www.sweetpotatoplant.com) and Burpee (http://www.burpee.com) have good selections.

Plant them a foot apart in the row, with rows three feet apart. Give them ample water at first to help them set their storage roots. Thereafter, they need less and less as the summer wears on. Heavy, cold, waterlogged soil is their worst enemy. If your soil is clay, plant in raised beds or ridges, well amended with organic matter. Avoid excess nitrogen, which can lead to a crop that is all vine, without much action underneath. Sneak out a few sweet-fleshed beauties to eat whenever you're hungry, then harvest the rest when the leaves turn yellow from age or black from frost, whichever comes first. Cure them in a warm spot for a week or two to harden the skins.

As a tropical crop, sweet potatoes are remarkably adaptable, and gardeners as far north as Canada have had success with them. ("Sweet Potatoes for the Home Garden," Ken Allan's 1998 book, documents such a triumph.) But they do prefer a long, warm summer. In one dismally rainy, chilly year, even my dependable Beauregards (a popular variety) turned up with thin roots. But that was also the year I let the gorgeous vines run beneath some newly planted fruit trees, so that the foliage blanketed the bare soil as a living mulch. It was the one part of the garden that didn't explode with weeds.

If you have a small garden, you can still grow sweet potatoes by choosing a bush variety such as Vardaman. Or else just think of sweet potato vines as the perfect ground cover. And take a year off from weeding.

Damrosch is a freelance writer and the author of "The Garden Primer."