• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • r ranson
  • Nicole Alderman
stewards:
  • Joseph Lofthouse
  • paul wheaton
  • Mike Haasl
master gardeners:
  • jordan barton
  • John F Dean
  • Carla Burke
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Jay Angler
  • Leigh Tate
  • thomas rubino

Sweet Potatoes - the ultimate survival crop

 
pollinator
Posts: 127
Location: SE Indiana
96
  • Likes 26
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi folks, new here. Lurked around for awhile and decided to jump in. I grow stuff to eat, have for a long time. Got into plant breeding a while back and got some pretty good varieties going of my own beans, tomatoes, several other things. Some of my things have a touch of Lofthouse in their family.

My primary breeding crop is sweet potatoes. I lucked into a few seeds several years back and now I generally get hundreds, even thousands of seeds off my plants each year. I don't save many plants as clones, just a few of the best each year to backcross with the next years seedlings.

They seem to be pretty easy to grow, keep a long time with out any special conditions. I'm not much studied on nutrition but understand they are highly so. Chock full of good ole vitamins and the like. The leaves are too and you can grow them fresh in a sunny window all winter.

Here is some general stuff I've learned about them last several years. I apologize for the formatting, I copy pasted from a word file.

• Terminology
o I use the term Grex rather than “landrace” according to the Dr. Alan Kapuler definition
o Also according to Kaupler, I use the designation G rather than F, while they are certainly crossed they are not what is generally know as hybrid. The Grex contains seed from each generation all mixed together.
o The population is now about G6, indicating some plants have grown that many years, (seed from seed from seed), but all generations are grown and crossed together.
o The population has been pushed in a specific direction by selection *see selection
o Ornamental / Food Quality – I call those that do not make large storage roots ornamental. Research indicates that is preferred so that they can easily be grown in planters.  Food Quality which is my actual preference, of course makes a good sized food quality root that store well.  That said, the foliage of the ornamental group are just as good for eating as those of the food group.
o Mass polycross – this is just when a number of plants are allowed to randomly cross by natural means. Bumblebees are the primary pollinator in my garden. The father plant is never known but I also have not kept track of the mother, all seeds are saved together with one exception *see selection
o Maturity – sweet potato roots do not mature in the same sense as most vegetables, they simply reach a usable size. Maturity for me is that they also make seeds.

• Flowering
o Most available varieties do not flower or if so sparingly, but some do
o Flowering in my experience is not  day length sensitive although some do it sooner than others
o Flowering can be forced by environmental pressures or grafting onto other species – I do not force Flowering – research and experience indicates flowering is enhanced naturally in successive seed grown generations *research indicates no negative effects to production from plants that flower

Self and Cross compatibility and Seed Set
o Compatibility is highly variable, specifics on that, within my grex is unknown due to the mass polycross breeding technique
o Some of my plants have exhibited confirmed self compatibility but I have not done controlled isolated grow outs or made any attempt to track them
o My first seeds were from a self compatible plant believed to be the non-patented  ornamental  variety know as Blackie or more likely a mutation there of

Trait Inheritance, Varietal Stability
o From research, sweet potatoes are extremely complex genetically and each seed grown plant is a new unique individual.
o My experience supports that, however I do see commonality of traits in some specimens but I can only examine those that can be seen or tasted. Variation in nutrition levels and so on is unknown, even in plants that look very similar.
o As it pertains to germination *see germination
o I see wide variation in vine growth habit, leaf shapes and colors, root colors and flavor. Root colors and growth habits can be dissimilar from either parent.  
o
• Mutation
o Research and experience shows random mutation occurs fairly often, especially in first couple generations of cloning from a new seed grown plant.  For example a pink root plant and a purple root plant have sprouted from the same parent root.
• Seed Collection
o Seed collection is unfortunately a time consuming process for the following reasons.
 Seeds form in capsules containing from 1 to 4 seeds and they do so continually for two to four months depending on weather
 Mature capsules can shatter and lose the seeds if not checked almost daily
 In my small patch of generally less than fifty plants a commitment of an hour or more per day is needed to collect the seeds
 Seed collection can be made easier by growing them up off the ground in pots and by trellising the vines.

• Germination
o Research and experience show that germination can be difficult.  A number of techniques can be used to increase germination rates, such as nicking the seed coat or even soaking in sulfuric acid to soften the seed.  
o A big part of my goal is to breed a strain that sprouts easily so I do not use any of those techniques
 I start my seeds in a homemade non- sterile mix on a cold drafty south facing window with a cheap heat mat.
 In my first attempt my germination rate within two weeks was less than 10%
 After just a few seasons germination in those conditions has increased to over 50%
 Friends who I have shared seeds with used more controlled conditions with temperatures of around 80 F and lights, their germination rates were around 90%
 The past three seasons I have had volunteers in my garden from seed lost the prior year so ease of sprouting is improving. I plant to do experiments with using unheated cold frame for sprouting or even direct seeding
 The volunteers generally do not come up until June but still have time to mature more seed

• Cloning
o I use cloning to boost the genetic traits that I like. While as mentioned earlier the phenotype of no new plant will ever be entirely predictable I’ve seen that  the chances of desirable traits in offspring can be increased.
o For example when a particularly nice plant shows up I clone it the next year and let it mix back in with the new seedlings and any new heirloom varieties that I acquire and that bloom, after that it is allowed to go extinct.
o Cloning of (non-rooting ) ornamental  plants that I like are just kept as houseplants in the kitchen window.

• Selection
o Goal
 My goal is to make a strain of sweet potatoes adapted to be grown from true seed rather than clones and to produce food quality roots and more seeds in a period of 100 day or less
o Criteria
 Ease of germination, eliminate need for heat or lights, direct sowing may be possible
 Clump Root trait – make harvest easier by selecting for growth of storage roots directly under the main stem instead of deep in the ground or spread out
• I grow a lot of my plants in relatively small pots where the feeder roots exit the drain holes into the ground. Clump root plants form their roots inside the pots
where spreading root plants may make storage roots off of the feeder roots outside the pot. Spreading root plants even if they are otherwise good are not cloned for the next year.
o Vine Growth Habit – Some plants are very bushy, occupying only three or four sq feet and somewhat upright. I prefer that but do not select exclusively for it. Some plants are large running vines.
o Root Color – different color and color combination in roots are fun to see, I do not select for or against any particular type.
o Root flavor – some are very sweet, I personally prefer those but so far have not selected only for that (selection for other traits has gone well so time to start focusing more colors and flavors in the roots)
o *I’ve started saving the earliest seeds (from first two weeks) separately. An effort to further shorten maturity time so they can be more adaptable to shorter season areas.



 
pollinator
Posts: 188
Location: Outside Detroit, MI
29
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Big WELCOME to the forums!!!
Thanks for joining the conversation!!

I love sweet potatoes.  And, was just doing a quick scan of new posts and saw yours.  However, it is a bit hard to read.  You might want to cut and paste what you have in this first post,  save/hold on to that.   Then, restart your first post  here with the summary or meat of the matter.  See, other than the title giving a clue... for a quick scan, I couldn't tell what you were getting at.  Like you said.. some of it is just copy and pasted... probably your own notes/reference.
- were you just sharing your hobby/interest and work?
- making the argument why sweet potatoes are the best survival food crop?
- or something else etc

Just saying, it is a long post, and  I want to be won over!   I do love growing sweet potatoes.
 
gardener
Posts: 3110
Location: Southern Illinois
572
transportation cat dog fungi trees building writing rocket stoves woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Mark,

Awesome introduction!  I agree that if I had to survive on one and only one crop it would have to be sweet potatoes.  And I absolutely love sweet potatoes.

Unfortunately I don’t have great luck growing sweet potatoes.  They grow just fine, but the deer and bunnies beat me to the sweet potatoes.  I am trying to get some gates up around my garden beds.


Welcome to Permies,

Eric

 
gardener & hugelmaster
Posts: 2020
Location: mountains of Tennessee
799
cattle hugelkultur cat dog trees hunting chicken bee homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Welcome to permies Mark. Sweet potatoes are one of my favorites & they grow good here. I'm hoping they do exceptionally well this year. They are very tasty & nutritious. I think the leaves taste better than spinach & are easier to grow. Volunteers should be appearing soon & slips were ordered many months ago. Making a few slips at home. No seeds though. That's awesome!!!
 
pollinator
Posts: 640
Location: Montana
221
forest garden trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Mark Reed,

Glad to hear from you here.
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 127
Location: SE Indiana
96
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for the welcomes!
Wasn't sure how to start out or how Permies works format wise and all.

That's all my work, I had prepared that general info when speaking with a seed company about maybe selling my seeds so had it handy and was easier to just paste it in.

I have lots of pictures too, I'll be putting some up. Folks familiar with a couple other forums I visit have already seen a lot of them.

Not really trying to argue the merits of sweet potatoes over something else or, just expressing how much I like growing and eating them and they are the easiest and most productive thing I grow.

Hi William, funny meeting you here.
 
pollinator
Posts: 322
Location: Near Philadelphia, PA
68
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Reed!  Glad to have you posting on Permies!
 
Posts: 26
10
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm also a big fan of sweet potatoes.  I prefer Beauregard.  I also like to slice them length wise in 1/4" thick slices, nuke them in the microwave until soft then I butter them and put REAL maple syrup on them and eat them like pancakes...simple, fast, and delicious.

I have at least 30 sprouts coming off the 5-6 sweet potatoes that have been on my potato rack in my kitchen for 4-5 months. I leave a few there every year in order to have them sprout and provide me with enough to put in my garden for the next year.  I simply cut them off "flush" with the potato, toss them in the cup of water and let them start throwing off roots.
SweetP.jpg
Sweet potato
Sweet potato
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 127
Location: SE Indiana
96
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Experimenting here on how to  post images. Looks like the IMG tag wants path to a file hosted somewhere else? Gonna see what the upload file does. Hey it worked!

Iv'e had tremendous luck with my sweet potato seeds but there are set backs too. Thought I'd start off with what happens if cool damp weather moves in while seeds are maturing. The nice black ones are good but as you can see some don't looks so great. The larger brown ones are usually OK but  some of them pucker up when fully dry and turn out not good.
Bad-SP-Seeds.jpg
Bad SP Seeds
Bad SP Seeds
 
Posts: 7
Location: Eastern Shore, MD
1
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is so exciting! I got pumped when I saw some purple sweet pots for sale at a grocery store - making oodles of slips now. I do eventually want to have them seed, but the ones I have been growing for a few years now have produced no such seeds. I've seen my ornamentals bloom, but not my food ones.

Where is a decent place to get seeds? Can I buy some off of you (once the corona uncertainty wears off)?
 
pollinator
Posts: 1292
Location: Green County, Kentucky
108
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So glad to see your post!  We like sweet potatoes, too, and I want to grow some this year.  When you start selling seeds, please let us know - I’d like to get some from you!
 
master gardener
Posts: 787
Location: Coastal Salish Sea area, British Columbia - USDA zone 8-9
360
goat books chicken food preservation pig solar homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here is our sweet potatoes for the year. We will do about 12 plants in our green house. The slip/vines came from our community member whose sweet potatoes were sprouting! Ours are not sprouting and we even grew them outside of the green house last year. still it is almost april and no sprouts!

anyways i thought i would post a photo of our slips in pots.
IMG_0386.JPG
Sweet Potatoe slips as of march 20th
Sweet Potatoe slips as of march 20th
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 127
Location: SE Indiana
96
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't have any seeds available right now, still holding out that something might work out with the seed company I talked to. They would have means to produce on much larger scale but seem to be focused on how much they weight, I don' know why that matters. No clue on what to charge for them either as you can't just squish out a couple hundred at a time like with a tomato. And there aren't a federal standards on germination and too precious to just test. I'm not a good record keeper but this year I am going to do better with that. I expect germ rate will be quite low compared to most things because they are a tropical species and I don't pamper them at all. If 75% or more rot or croak that's fine, the other 25% are the ones I wanted anyway.

I don't know of any place seeds are available for sale. Sweet potato seeds have never been for sale. What is described as seeds on Ebay isn't seeds. All breeding programs that I know of have been university and government sponsored. University of North Carolina, I think is currently the leader in the US but I think there is work in Louisiana too maybe other places. A lot of it is corporate sponsored with a goal of a new variety to clone and patent.

Of those I've sent seeds too only one that I  know of harvested a quantity of seed. He is California where long dry summer is great for maturing seed. Others in Texas and my friend in North Carolina had good luck too but didn't take the project very seriously. Those in NC got ate by rabbits. Friends in more northern and short season areas haven't been as successful but not complete failure either. One friend in a cold mountain valley with less than 90 day season successfully got seed, from seed. I'm especially excited about that cause cold tolerance and short season maturity and primary goals. Some friends in New Zealand are making progress too with some I sent them. There it seems the Northern areas are more successful that the south. But they have crosses between their own local clones and new genetics from mine, that's a great start to adapting new varieties for them.

I'm also aware of some folks in Ontario who have had what I consider fantastic success, I think they were working on it even sooner than me. Also a fellow in Sweden has had some success, I traded some material with him but his sprouted seeds didn't bloom for me.  Since my goal is highly focused on short season maturity I may try to hook up with them but for now I have enough seeds I can afford to throw lots into "survival of the fittest" situation and not worry about those that don't.

I don't know for sure the goal of others. Some may just want new varieties to clone from then on. I have eaten the last of lots of new varieties because I don't have storage space or patience for recording. Most importantly I want a seed grown variety that reliably makes food and seeds in 100 days or less and in places far removed from their native tropics.

I have some seeds promised to send out that I haven't gotten around to doing yet. My job unfortunately involves me, more than I'm comfortable about with current events so that and the seed company talks kind of fell to the back burner.  Actually I may do like that fellow in the movie "Office Space" and not quit but just stop going to my job.

That's partly why I signed up here at Permies, for something more fun to talk about.

 
Kathleen Sanderson
pollinator
Posts: 1292
Location: Green County, Kentucky
108
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Do you have any idea how long the seeds can be stored and retain at least some viability?  One of the weaknesses of potatoes and sweet potatoes is having to rely on easily-damaged tubers for the next season’s crop.  And if you lose a whole crop, but have stored seed, you could still be able to replant the next year.  And then there is the issue of disease transmission - less of that with seeds.
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 127
Location: SE Indiana
96
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yes, uncertainly of being able to keep roots or tubers till the next season is exactly why I want a seed grown version. And the disease thing too.

My research indicates seeds are viable for years just in good dry cool storage. Decades if frozen. I've found older seeds are slower and lower germ but I think that might also be because they are farther back in the "seed from seed" chain. Seed from seed seems to get easier each year, they older ones are from earlier generations and lack that adaptation.
 
Phil Gardener
pollinator
Posts: 322
Location: Near Philadelphia, PA
68
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I routinely keep sweet potato tubers for two years - that has saved me after poor seasons twice now in the past two decades.  I haven't tried to stretch them to three, but two is never a problem.

I get a modest amount of flowering on several traditional varieties in my garden here in SE PA and limited seed development in longer fall seasons.  The common purple-leaved cultivar grown as an ornamental (not typically grown for eating but its tubers taste fine) flowers well and sets good seed - it is self-fertile (not all varieties are) and would be useful as a pollen donor/recipient for anyone trying some crosses.

 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 127
Location: SE Indiana
96
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That's interesting that the seedy ornamental you have actually makes eatable sized roots. The one that started my addiction looked just like your picture but made no useable roots at all, largest maybe the size of a pencil or a little bigger and a couple feet long.  

Have you grown any of your seeds? What did you get?
 
Phil Gardener
pollinator
Posts: 322
Location: Near Philadelphia, PA
68
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Phenotypically the offspring of the purple leaved cultivar were a mixed bag - showing a variety of leaf shapes and shades.  I got the best germination by scarifying the seed coats.  I suspect the ornamentals were developed more recently from crosses than most of the clones grown for eating, and that may be why they may bloom and set seed more readily.  The year I grew those out was a poor year for all my sweets (too much rain and things rotted in my clay soils) and none were continued.  Crossing the ornamentals with some of the standard varieties to restore fertility, like you are doing, is a great approach.  It is likely there is a lot of genetic diversity locked up in these varieties as they all are clonal rather than stabilized, open pollinated lines.  It is nice to see the progress you are making with these!
 
pollinator
Posts: 1467
Location: northern northern california
219
forest garden foraging trees fiber arts building medical herbs
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
thats very cool !

sweet potatoes are definitely high on the list of perfect foods. been making big pots of mashed sweet potatoes lately.

love how the maori worship the sweet potato --they see it as like a sacred brother..... or basically they had this type of kinship with the sweet potato --->

https://teara.govt.nz/en/kumara/print


Heavenly origins

In one tradition Pani-tinaku brought kūmara to earth. Her husband was Rongomāui, the younger brother of Whānui (the star Vega). He stole the kūmara and gave it to his wife, who gave birth to it. As a curse, Whānui sent down Anuhe, Toronū and Moko, all names for the kūmara moth caterpillar, which attacks the leaves of the plant.
 
Posts: 271
Location: Brendansport, Sagitta IV
35
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Oooh. Interested in seeds when you get extras -- I prefer sweet and fine-fleshed (not fibrous), and also need that bit of frost hardiness. I've never grown sweets, but regular potatoes do well here (couple years ago we got some the size of your head). Zone 4a, more or less; sandy loam and fairly dry.

Drown in butter and generously apply lemon pepper... mmmmm......
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 127
Location: SE Indiana
96
  • Likes 10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The 2020 sweet potato experiments have started. I put my saved clones in wet sand about a week ago and most are already sprouting slips. These are the best of last year as far as making seeds and having the root forming traits I like. I back cross the best of each year with the seed grown plants from the next year. Well not really back cross I don't guess cause that implies I control how the crossing is done. I don't really do that, I just let the bees take care of pollination how ever they see fit but the genetics of the prior year is always represented in the next season's seeds both as mother and father.

Yesterday I started the grand experiment of planting 300 seeds directly in the ground. This I hope will yield some percentage of plants that sprouted easily without any artificial treatments at all, no light, no heat, no cover. I'll be very happy if just 10% of these sprout before June 1st. I also planted 200 seeds which I'll place in the cold frame like I do with tomatoes. They are just sitting out in the cold rain right now getting good and soaked. Finally another 100 seeds in a tray I'll put on a heat mat in the south kitchen window. This is the first year I've tried anything other than that last one.

I'm too lazy to mess with nicking a seed to encourage sprouting and I think soaking them in sulfuric acid to soften the seed cost is just stupid. I want a strain that sprouts easily on its own and think I'm on the path to that. This years experiments should go a long way on that.

I have one more experiment I think I'll do this year. In one of Carol Deppe's books she talks about thinning corn seedlings. She says no to get to hasty about it cause smaller later sprouting plants might not necessarily be they wants you want to cull.  That's because some sprout and grow the leaves first and some sprout and establish a root system first. A strong root system, logically might be a better indicator of an overall stronger plant. If that's the case with corn, it might be the case with about anything, especially I'm thinking with a root crop.

So I would like to know if something like this happens with sweet potatoes but didn't know how to go about it. I'm thinking of getting some clear plastic drinking straws, cutting them to about 4 inches long and packing with seed  starting  mix to the exact same depth with a seed in each one. That way I'll be able to observe the sprouting process and see what happens.
 
pollinator
Posts: 653
Location: Huntsville Alabama (North Alabama), Zone 7B
101
fish fungi foraging bee building medical herbs
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My wife loves the Asian (white flesh) Sweet Potato.  I have taken over almost all of the garden area and left little room for her to grow these.  Can they be made to grow in vertical tubes made out of fencing?  Leaves then dirt then wood chips and repeat.
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 127
Location: SE Indiana
96
  • Likes 9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sweet potato season here will be done pretty soon. I always look forward to that cause I get to find out what kind of roots the new plants have.

Seed production is a little disappointing this year in a way. I already probably have the most seeds ever and a lot more maturing now but the most ever is likely because I have way more plants than ever.  I think seeds per plant is less than I've seen before. I attribute that to neglect of watering during the terrible dry heat of June and July. Lots of days they were badly wilted by end of day. They are very tolerant of that though and I had lots of other stuff going on so I didn't worry over it.

They are also extremely crowded, I think maybe some less vigorous ones might have been even more stunted by competition. They each have their own pot but some could have been robbed of light because of the crowding.

The one I am considering kind of special because of it's extremely compact growth and extremely fat trunk is a little disappointing in that it has only made a few seeds. Those with fat trunks and bushy habit seem often to also have the clump root trait I like and I can tell from the base of this ones trunk that it's roots will be orange. I favor that for personal preferences. I'm learning to use the others colored ones in satisfying ways but traditionally sweet and orange is what I think of when I think of sweet potatoes. Even though it hasn't been a good seeder if it has nice roots I'll probably clone this one next year.

Someone gave me some this spring that were distributed at a food bank. Very spherical shaped, orange through and through and sweet. I had never seen any like them, only one sprouted slips and they have grown well but no flowers, o'well.

I have some this year with very, very, large vines. I don't especially like that and have half halfheartedly selected against it but these have bloomed a lot. I've been keeping their seeds separate from the overall mix but I'm sure that trait has been widely distributed in this years seed crop.

I think if I ever really, really want to focus only on the specific traits that instead of starting new seeds each year I could just clone my favorites for a season or two and start again with mostly just those seeds. I have done that already to some degree but also always started new ones. Anyway now that giant vine pollen is everywhere. Then again it came pretty much from nowhere in the first place so maybe it doesn't really matter.

I'm not complaining because in truth it actually makes it more fun but as far as reliably predicting phenotype based on that of the mother isn't working out all all. It's clear that they just flat don't care what I think about it. Still I believe that repeatedly cloning particular ones to back cross the next year has to have some effect. Maybe it just takes a little longer, few more years maybe? decades??

Another interesting little thing is as I clean up other parts of the garden getting ready for winter I'm finding little sweet potato volunteers all over the place. Seeds can apparently lay dormant in the ground for years.

Overall I think my project "turning sweet potatoes into a seed grown annual" is largely done. So now on to turning them into a seed grown annual with some degree of predictability of phenotype. I'd say at this point an accuracy in that predictability is maybe 25%, so I'll shoot on improving it to 50%

Still even though specific phenotype can't be predicted the project is somewhat complete in another way too. That being that if I plant say 100 seeds I can conservatively get 50 plants and even though I can't exactly quantify that right now some number of them will produce large storage roots that will keep without any special conditions all the way till the next harvest. And a stockpile of seeds will store and stay viable for many years, probably decades if frozen.

Yep, based on experience so far I can't think of of an easier, more dependable, survival crop than sweet potatoes.  

 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 127
Location: SE Indiana
96
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Spent the last couple of days cutting back the sweet potatoes so it's easier to find the seeds. I remove all the big leaves especially if they are a little yellowed and also cut off most al of the stems that don't have capsules developing. Always find lots of seeds when I do this and also it makes it so I can tell the plants apart.

Got a new Bushy Bloomer this year, actually three or four of them. The old original Bushy Bloomer didn't make a good storage roots nor did a lot of it's immediate descendants. I think based on the look of their primary trunk that these may be better in that department.

This year after trimming and identifying individual plants I tagged those that are good seeders, about 30 or so got tags. When I dump the pots the whole plant mostly stays intact so this year when I do that I can better match those with good roots to those that are good seeders. Assuming I have a good number of them, minimum of ten, I'm thinking that next year I will mostly just grow clones of them and archive most of my seeds.
I think if I get 10 and i think I will,  that meet the criteria of nice seeds and roots and grow say five clones each next year that should help "distill" those traits into a new more elite line of seeds. Also I can start trialing for other traits like flavor and texture.

I already know culinary traits also vary widely from delightful to awful. I probed around and found some small side roots and they range from a purple skinned, orange fleshed one that is yummy, yummy even without curing to an all white one that is like chewing on a rope. Also an all purple one that tastes like nothing at all. As a rule those with orange or yellow flesh meet my personal tastes best but the purple/white ones are growing on me as a replacement for Irish potatoes. Generally I think sweet potatoes are good no matter what, those that are really bad for one reason or another represent at most 10% of the total.

A couple of my favorite Bushy Bloomers have a lot of seed developing right now. They were a little late getting going good cause they were actually almost discarded early on just because I ran out of pots but they kept going and recovering repeatedly from rabbit attack so I finally found them some. If weather turns cold I'll just clip off the stems with developing seeds and bring them inside, I've done that before and it works pretty good. Most of those flowers in the last photo have been pollinated but do not have time to mature before frost. At this stage if I brought them in they would probably abort but if they have at least another week outside then most will finish up inside.

It didn't work out this year with the seed company on a partnership to market seeds but that is still on the table so if it works out I may send 1/2 or more of my seeds to them.
NewBB.JPG
Sweet Potato Bushy Bloomer type
Sweet Potato Bushy Bloomer type
Trimmed.JPG
Sweet Potatoes trimmed for better individual identification
Sweet Potatoes trimmed for better individual identification
NewBB-2.JPG
Sweet Potato flower cluster
Sweet Potato flower cluster
 
pollinator
Posts: 464
Location: Utah
127
cat forest garden fungi foraging food preservation bee medical herbs writing greening the desert
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think I have some of your seeds at a couple removes. I have seeds labeled Reed's Vining Mix, Purple Heirloom Mix, and Bushy Bloomer Mix. Last year I got 12 plants and two bloomed. No viable seeds. I kept clones of those two and got 13 more this year. Of those, 8 bloomed including the two from last year. I'm not seeing the seed pods, I think, because I've only found one pod so far. From 8 blooming plants, I think more should be seeding.

I'll again keep clones for those that bloomed to add to my pile for next spring. Those that didn't bloom (I've pulled them already) have insignificant roots, mostly purple or purple/white. Several had a single "tap" root, right below the main plant. I think most were from the "purple heirloom" mix.

I planted them without bottom heat or special soil and got maybe a 50% germination rate, although I did nick the seeds. One from last winter was exceptionally cold tolerant and thrived in my unheated greenhouse until the water it was in froze, while one of those I've pulled for this year had already died back when the temperatures haven't gotten below 40.

I'm going to try some of those (discarded) roots in the greenhouse in Kratky hydroponics and see if the roots are larger when they get more consistent water.
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 127
Location: SE Indiana
96
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'd love to find some more cold tolerant ones, I've seen some hints of it when vines I discarded after harvest went ahead and bloomed more or finished maturing seeds just laying on the ground. That isn't uncommon over all but continuing to do it after a frost is. I saw it happen a little last year but not sure if it represents some genetic cold tolerance or just random chance of a friendly breeze or something shielding this or that one from the frost. It's one of those many potential side experiments I haven't had time to investigate yet.

I'm not familiar with Kratky hydroponics. I do grow some in my garden pond each year. It has a little stream section that flows into the sunken part where the fish live. I just drop a root or stem piece in the stream part and massive vines grow but they have never developed a storage root that way, even if its one that ordinarily does. They just make massive amounts of string roots that are apparently extremely good at purifying the water which always stays crystal clear. Plants grown like that do bloom a lot though.

 
Lauren Ritz
pollinator
Posts: 464
Location: Utah
127
cat forest garden fungi foraging food preservation bee medical herbs writing greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Kratky is a static system. You put in the water and nutrients, and walk away. No power, no bubblers or flowing water or whatever. It seems to work quite well for everything from greens to squash. I'm going to try rice this winter as well. I figure since Kratky relies on a space above the water line for "air" roots, it might work for a root crop.

Or the roots might just drink up all the water and expire, sighing at the unfairness of it all. :)
 
Posts: 107
Location: Appalachian Mountains
24
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I wanted to get into character for a book I was writing about my family history during the civil war, a year ago.  I knew they ate sweet potatoes near the end of that conflict because it was often all they had.  So I ate them for a week.  For months I never wanted to see another one, but I do actually love them.  Planted them late this year (mid July) due to not being able to source any slips at the stores, and the Covid restrictions on plants, etc.  So ended up sprouting a couple I had from the grocery store.  That was the reason for the late planting and I was lucky to have any.  Dug some September 25 because we are about to have frost here and something had been digging in the raised bed I had them in.  Some were very large, but not many.  Most had not grown yet, so I ended up with 1/4 bushel out of about 6 plants.   Pretty good I guess for a short season, but would have had a bushel or more had they had more growing days in the heat they love.  I mixed in sand and lots of rotten leaves into clay as a base for them.  
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 127
Location: SE Indiana
96
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It might not be to early to go ahead and start selecting for culinary quality in my sweet potatoes this year. Here are some small ones I pulled out from the edges of the pots, leaving the main plant and hopefully larger roots to finish making more seeds.

The white/purple one is very crunchy and not sweet, I think it would be good in beef stew or fried with onions or garlic. When it was first cut the white part was snowy white but by time I found the camera it had changed. Don't know how that would effect flavor, might if using it in a dish want to get it cooking immediately. I have lots that are good that way though so no need to worry over this one too much.

The orange one is Ok, probably would benefit from an actual curing period. Again noting of real note but it is a good seeder. Here is where I might start selecting. I expect that other good seeders will be at least as good for seeds but better for culinary, so this one might not make the cut.

The yellowish on on the right is yum, yum, yum even with out curing. It is only moderate for seeds, say in the neighborhood of 6 out of 10 but it is wonderful, hard to imagine I'll find one better  but can always hope. Of all those I've seen over the years if I was to select one to scale up and keep for clonal propagation this one might be it.

Wonderful, wonderful variety in sweet potatoes, that for sure!
CulinaryTest.jpg
Taste tested (seed grown) sweet potatoes 2020
Taste tested (seed grown) sweet potatoes 2020
 
pollinator
Posts: 1602
Location: northern California
209
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just about every thread I see on here and elsewhere about sweet potatoes neglects to mention this fact, and I haven't seen it here yet either, though I admit I read through it pretty quickly.  EAT THE GREENS!!  They are wonderful briefly cooked up and used any way one would use spinach; while having the advantage of growing through the long hot summer, unlike most other greens except for tougher things like collards and a few other uncommon tropicals.  You can regularly prune the tips and cook them stem and all, and this can help keep the vines a bit more controlled especially in a small garden.  I think I read somewhere you can pick about 20% of the leaves without affecting the yield of the roots.  This tidbit raises their value in a subsistence system quite significantly....
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 127
Location: SE Indiana
96
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here in Indiana and I'm sure lots of other places a big south window can accommodate a nice patch of sweet potato greens to harvest all winter. Then if you want you can plant them out in spring and grow some more taters too!
 
Lauren Ritz
pollinator
Posts: 464
Location: Utah
127
cat forest garden fungi foraging food preservation bee medical herbs writing greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Alder Burns wrote:Just about every thread I see on here and elsewhere about sweet potatoes neglects to mention this fact, and I haven't seen it here yet either, though I admit I read through it pretty quickly.  EAT THE GREENS!!  They are wonderful briefly cooked up and used any way one would use spinach; while having the advantage of growing through the long hot summer, unlike most other greens except for tougher things like collards and a few other uncommon tropicals.  You can regularly prune the tips and cook them stem and all, and this can help keep the vines a bit more controlled especially in a small garden.  I think I read somewhere you can pick about 20% of the leaves without affecting the yield of the roots.  This tidbit raises their value in a subsistence system quite significantly....

The greens are talked about, here and there. In this particular case, though, it's not about greens. It's about seeds. I'm aware that the greens are edible, but first I need to get them to actually grow and thrive here, which means growing from seed and adapting them to my environment.
 
Lauren Ritz
pollinator
Posts: 464
Location: Utah
127
cat forest garden fungi foraging food preservation bee medical herbs writing greening the desert
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I tasted the purples. One is purple all the way through, the other is purple and white.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uxng1rUHN1A
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 127
Location: SE Indiana
96
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I was planning to go ahead and harvest mine cause of the cool weather but now we are predicted to have a few days of warmer drier so I think I'll leave them to finish up some more seeds. Clipping stems and bringing them in to finish works good but I would rather just let them do it outside if possible. I did kind of accidentally on purpose pull up a few more side ones. What I mean by that is those that grew where a stem had rooted down away from the main trunk, so I'm not really 100% sure which plant these came from except the two on the right, they came from one of those with the very long vines. They are also from some that I rate at 5 or less out of 10, for seeds. Will let them cure a few days on a south windowsill and then see how they are baked.  

They and probably 2/3 of all the rest are also from the group that was started directly in the ground rather than inside or in the cold frame. I'm real excited about that as it eliminates that step each spring. No greenhouses, no heat, nothing special required. It's taken 7 years but they are getting to where they are as or even more easy to start than tomatoes.

You can eat the roots and store them for months. You can eat the leaves and grow them fresh year round. You can clone your favorite roots indefinitely. You can grow big roots from seeds and store seeds for decades.  Sweet potatoes are pretty sweet!

LowSeed2020.JPG
2020 Sweet Potatoes (seed grown but low seed production)
2020 Sweet Potatoes (seed grown but low seed production)
 
Mike Barkley
gardener & hugelmaster
Posts: 2020
Location: mountains of Tennessee
799
cattle hugelkultur cat dog trees hunting chicken bee homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Mark, if I had sweet potatoes that would seed I'd treat them like gold. Apparently seeds are rare. I've seen a few flowers but never any seeds. I suspect that is due to inbreeding for many generations. Here's an informative breeding thread.
 
steward & bricolagier
Posts: 6353
Location: SW Missouri
2864
goat cat fungi books chicken earthworks food preservation cooking building homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If those are viable seeds, yes, they are GOLD!!
If you don't want them, they will sell easily. (If you sell some, tell me!!)
 
master gardener
Posts: 1963
716
personal care gear foraging hunting rabbit chicken cooking food preservation fiber arts medical herbs homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Like Pearl - count me in! That's one I don't have, yet - and a favorite!
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 127
Location: SE Indiana
96
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yep, they are viable seed, just ask Joseph. I think he had some from other sources too but most of those seedlings in his pictures are from my seed. I do hope they will eventually be for sale and in quantity, I'm working with a couple seed companies to that end but it will take another two years at least to scale up production. If it turns out I can't make a deal it will take even longer but I'll figure something out. I prefer a deal with a seed company cause they already have the marketing mechanism and all the necessary permits and licensees that might be required.

As far as gold goes since it isn't very digestible, I figure they are worth a lot more than it is.
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 127
Location: SE Indiana
96
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well the 2020 sweet potato harvest is done. Wouldn't call it an emergency harvest but it was hurried as a cool breeze and light sprinkles was moving in. Didn't really get to tag and sort individual plants as I intended. O' well I actually hate that aspect of plant breeding anyway.

So I ended up just pitching a single root of each seedy plant into a tub and brought them in by a small heater to keep them warm for a couple days. I don't really know the actual importance of this warm curing period and have never done it before but guess it won't hurt.  

There is about 20 or so in the picture, not all the best looking roots but all nicely seedy and some what I might call super seedy. I think root quality is likely affected by poor growing conditions so just when I thought next year might get easier now I'm thinking I should actually spend the time and effort to improve growing conditions. Time to act like I actually care if they grow or not instead of just sticking them in pots full of what ever I scrounge up. Maybe even make some effort that they are all growing in the same mix so I can tell if differences are genetic or environmental.

Also lots to learn about storage quality, do some get internal cork like I've read about? Don't really even know what it is exactly but don't think I've ever seen it. Anyway, the learning curve is not flattening much at all.

I'm just going to let these do their thing next spring, maybe see some difference in storage ability, flavor after storage, how well they produce slips and so on.

Those two in the second picture demonstrate a possible issue. The onw with lots of roots, especially that fatter root, I think is indicative of  one that might make deep or spread out roots which I don't want. On the other hand it was from the most seedy plant I've ever seen. The one next to it with just a little root sticking out is more indicative of those that only make my preferred clump roots.

There were other roots on each that I kept in the tub to eat along with all the poor seeders. Some had a small extra one or two that I went ahead and sampled. Found a couple more of the sweet purple/yellow ones and a purple/orange that's also quite tasty. I didn't make any effort to tag them separate.  Unless they rot or whither in storage which I doubt, I'll find them again next year.

The harvest to eat is still sitting out there as I stupidly tossed them all in one big tub and it was too heavy to lift so I pitched a piece of plastic and an old blanket on top. I'll get them put up tomorrow. Also didn't do much on bringing in stems to mature seeds, they will still be there tomorrow too. I don't really need them but might collect up a few more.

2020(S)Harvest.JPG
2020 Seedy Sweet Potatoes (G7)
2020 Seedy Sweet Potatoes (G7)
ComparedRoots.JPG
Sweet Potato root type comparison
Sweet Potato root type comparison
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 127
Location: SE Indiana
96
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm having a discussion on another forum about my sweet potatoes. We're talking mostly about germination rates and the fact that they can be hard to sprout. Not because the seeds are bad but because of the extremely hard seed coat. Some think the seed should be scarified but I am taking the path of selection for those that do it easier on their own. Also how they compare to growing Irish potatoes from seeds.  Below is my reply to a recent post on that and other issues.

In my garden and climate potatoes are completely worthless. I tried three years growing from seeds. I never paid much attention to germ rate but it wasn't bad I don't think. But in those three years I managed to get a total of three seed berries and two of them were on plants from a commercial potato not the ones I started from seed. And all the ones I started from seed over the whole three years together would barely fill a tea cup with harvested potatoes. Noting at all to eat came from the seeds cause I had to try (and I failed) to keep the little tiny potatoes alive to replant the next year. I hate that cause I love potatoes but way too uncooperative to be a reliable food source here. I'll keep growing a few the way I always did by buying the tubers to plant each spring.

A sweet potato seed can make a food harvest and a couple hundred or more seeds it's first year. And if a person wants to they can easily keep a root from a favorite one to make slips the next spring or eat them all and just keep a stem growing as a house plant.

Germination has been improving each year and I think it will continue to but I'm really fine with as it is now. Out of 300 hundred seeds direct planted in the ground I had plenty sprout fast enough to fill my whole growing area.

By cloning the 20 best from this year, to cross with each other then next years seed crop will be improved even more.

Still there are other issues:
**They are genetically freaky enough that non-bloomers, non-seeders, and non-rooters will probably show up in some proportion even from the 2021 seeds. Always being necessary to grow extras to insure a good harvest isn't so bad. The rub here is you can't know until harvest what you will get from a new plant. I want to find a way to know that at seedling or young plant stage.

Of course you can always eat the greens from a non-rooting plant but I don't really like the greens much. They don't taste bad but have a weird quality that's hard to describe, feels like having soap in your mouth although they don't taste like soap. They are OK mixed with other things in a salad or cooked in vegetable soup. I think if you dried them up and powdered them they might make a good thickener for gravy or stew.

**And then that sneaky little issue of compatibility. Say a gardener finds one they really like and decides to just clone it. Maybe it blooms a lot but will it make seeds? I don't know. Self compatibility is definitely in my seeds but I'm positive it isn't universal. AND I'm pretty sure some might be compatible with just some particular other one(s).  Or in one direction but not the other. How the heck am I ever gonna figure that out? It would take huge amounts of grow outs, isolation and recording. No way I'm gonna do that so for now I'm just going on the assumption that a good number of different plants have to be grown each year.

O' well no matter, the project is still going way better than I ever expected and it's lots of fun so first things first is to clone those twenty next year and make my new more elite line of seed. Already anxious for 2022 when I can pant them and see what comes out of it.
 
A teeny tiny vulgar attempt to get you to buy our stuff
Food Forest Card Game - Game Forum
https://permies.com/t/61704/Food-Forest-Card-Game-Game
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic