Harvesting, Curing, and Storing Sweet Potatoes

By Dr. Samuel D. Cotner, Head
Department of Horticultural Sciences

Home gardeners as well as commercial producers in many areas over the state are presently involved in harvesting and storing sweet potatoes. Following are some suggestions for the proper harvesting, curing, and storing of freshly dug sweet potatoes.

HARVESTING. Harvest sweet potatoes before soil temperatures drop to 50 degrees F., to prevent injury. If frost damages the vines before digging, remove them to prevent decay from starting in the dead vine and moving into the roots. If possible, dig sweet potatoes when the soil is dry. Less soil will stick to the roots, and they will be easier to handle. Let the roots dry about three hours after digging.

CURING. Successful storage depends greatly upon proper curing. Cure by placing a large quantity of roots in a fairly air-tight building. If artificial heat is not available, the heat of respiration and high outside temperature is often sufficient for curing. Artificial heat can be used to bring storage temperature to 80 to 90 degrees F. Bring the relative humidity up to 85 to 90 percent with a water hose or humidifier. Wounds heal rapidly and there is some root drying. The curing process takes about two weeks.

STORING. Store sweet potatoes in a warm building where the air is dry and the temperature uniform. The curing room may also be the storage room if conditions are right. Temperature during storage should be kept as close to 55 degrees F. as possible. The roots may chill if the temperature drops below 50 degrees. Ventilate the storage room if the temperature gets to 60 degrees F. or above. Cellar houses used for storage should be ventilated. Poor ventilation is one reason why losses are sometimes heavy when pits or banks are used for storage.

Disturb the sweet potatoes as little as possible after they have been cured and stored. Excessive handling will result in increased rot and decay during storage.