Monday, April 27, 2015

Exploring New Ideas

What if you could take starch and sugar and convert them into healthy, delicious salad greens? Believe it or not, the lowly sweet potato can do this effortlessly. Encouraging one to do so is a great way to use up last year's sweet potatoes that are starting to sprout, along with producing new plants for this year's crop. Besides the sweet potato, you will need a quart Mason jar and (possibly) three toothpicks.

Choose a sweet potato that already shows signs of sprouting. Set it, sprouted end up, in the Mason jar. If necessary, stick toothpicks into the potato near the sprout end to support it upright in the center of the jar. Pour about two inches of tap water into the jar and set it in a sunny place. Within a week or two, the sprouts will begin to elongate, forming heart-shaped leaves. At the same time, roots will emerge from the bottom end of the potato. Keep the water level topped up, as the sweet potato will start drinink a lot of water once it has a root system. Don't worry about the growth of algae in the water, and do not add fertilizer to the jar.

For sweet potato plants to transplant to the garden, wait until several stems are at least six inches long and have multiple leaves. Remove these stems close to the old potato root, and remove all but the top two leaves. Set these "slips" in a glass of water, where they will root within two weeks. The rooted slips may be transplanted directly to the garden if the soil has warmed up, or you can put them in pots to hold for a few weeks until favorable planting conditions arrive.

Don't discard the old sweet potato, however. It will continue to produce stems and leaves, feeding off the carbohydrates stored within it last season. You can continue to take slips until you have as many as you like. Thereafter, you can harvest the leaves from the potato any time. They make delicious additions to salads, soups and stir frys. Use them as you would spinach. You can eat the stems, too, if they are not too tough. The original root will continue to produce leaves until all of its stored food is exhausted. At that point, it is ready for the compost pile. Until then, you should get several servings of sweet potato leaves.

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