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Hawaiian Sunshine Sweet Potato Harvest 9th May 2015

Re-used half of an otherwise-useless Tumbleweed composter. Turned it into a wicking bed, filled with a mix of potting mix, vermiculite, compost, soaked fine coir, Organic Xtra. The greenery was allowed to grow at will and trained up an existing trellis in a very sunny spot.

It's quite deep, around a metre. The tubers though were all nestled in the top 6-10 inches. Roots went all the way down but no tubers down in the depths.

After 9 months in the pot, the moment of truth:

Total harvest weight 3.7kgs; largest individual 1.4kgs.

From the Green Harvest website:

"Sweet Potato 'Hawaiian Sunshine'
Ipomea batatas
"Produces large tubers with an off-white skin and purple flesh. It has a drier flesh than Beauregard. It is an excellent source of purple pigments, called anthocyanins, up to 150% more than blueberries. These pigments have been linked to fighting cancer, aging, hypertension and neurological diseases, inflammation, diabetes and bacterial infections. Sweet potatoes are vining plants with attractive lobed leaves, pink morning-glory type flowers and tuberous roots. They do best in areas that are frost-free for at least 5 months with warm days and nights. In cooler areas wait for the beginning of the warm weather to plant. In subtropical and tropical areas sweet potato can be planted all year round."

Are we chuffed? You bet!

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Comment by Elaine de Saxe on May 20, 2015 at 13:33


Suspect a lot of our diet hype is from people wanting to sell us something.

The traditional societies would have some genetic ability to do well on whatever is locally available. I read once about an Inuit tribe who ate boiled seal meat 5 times a day. The European person staying with them was very ill; they thrived. They could only eat what was available anyway. They might be ill on fruit and veges.

We need to do our own experiments. Since we are all so different anyway, what works for 1 doesn't necessarily work for another.

Comment by Dave Riley on May 20, 2015 at 9:16

Further on the dietary attributes of sweet potatoes, this post discusses carbohydrate starches. The interesting aspect is that those societies which do load up with carbs big time are fueled significantly by sweet potato --although in the Pacific the other tuber staples are yam and taro (and sago).

There are literally billions of people eating high-starch diets worldwide, and you can find many examples of cultures that consume a large percentage of calories from starch where obesity, metabolic problems and modern, inflammatory disease are rare or nonexistent. These include the Kitava in the Pacific Islands, Tukisenta in the Papa New Guinea Highlands and Okinawans in Japan among others. The Kitavan diet is 69% carb, 21% fat, and 10% protein. The Okinawan diet is even more carb-heavy, at 85% carb, 9% protein and 6% fat. The Tukisenta diet is astonishingly high in carbohydrate: 94.6% according to extensive studies in the 60s and 70s. All of these cultures are fit and lean with low and practically non-existent rates of heart disease and other modern chronic disease.

And standard white potatoes are not far behind. From all accounts the Irish thrived on a diet of potatoes, milk and some oatmeal.If we consider the shared starch quotient between sweet and normal spuds:

And there are documented cases of people losing significant amounts of weight and improving metabolic parameters by eating nothing but potatoes. For example, Chris Voigt lost 21 pounds over the course of two months by eating only potatoes and not deliberately restricting calories. Furthermore, his fasting glucose decreased by 10 mg/dL (104 to 94 mg/dL), his serum triglycerides dropped by nearly 50%, his HDL cholesterol increased slightly, and his calculated LDL cholesterol dropped by a stunning 41% (142 to 84 mg/dL).

I find this fascinating because out to sea in the Pacific and to our north in various New Guinea localities are probably some of the best dietary regimes on the planet per their health consequences according to research.  But we're being urged to eat very differently and rely on other caloric resources.

But for us in the sub tropics these cuisines are readily accessible as kitchen garden crops. These folk in Melanesia etc -- have been growing these same crops for a hundreds of years in the one place. While debate exists as to how  sweet potatoes spread -- from Polynesia or via the Spanish and the Phillippines -- growing it  is a serious business.

Good overview HERE.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on May 18, 2015 at 9:58

I hope that the 'recipe' works for you Roger!

Not grown any of the other crops. Jerry Coleby-Williams does grow some of them, he might have growing info available or perhaps search the Gardening Australia site.

There should be a few posts on the other crops on here too so do a search on each one and see what you find.

After that if you still have questions, make a new post in the 'Exploring the Field Together' section of BLF with whatever are your specific questions.

Comment by Roger Clark on May 18, 2015 at 6:57

Thanks Elaine, I will follow your advice. My sweet potato crops have been underwhelming, and as one of the few crops to grow well in hotter times, it will be well worth trying to improve the yields I am getting. I am also growing Taro, Winged Yams, Cassava, and Coco Yams in an old pond site. I am waiting for the foliage to die down before I try harvesting. Have you had any experience with growing these? I am always looking to find things that will grow with success during summer, I've given up on a lot of the traditional crops at this time, too many pests, and stress for plants in our increasingly hot climate.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on May 17, 2015 at 10:50

No trimming. The idea of trellising is to utilise all the leaves for their food-making abilities and exposing the leaves to as much sun as possible.

Times I have trimmed I haven't got any tubers.

Rich soil, yes fairly. I put the bin down specifically for the Sweet Potatoes. To my basic mix (el cheepo potting mix, vermiculite and fine coir) I added Organic Xtra, own compost made from kitchen scraps. Put down a cover crop first then planted the rooted cuttings.

So far the tubers have been sweet where the tuber I harvested from a pot with little nutrients was almost tasteless.

Comment by Roger Clark on May 17, 2015 at 8:14

Elaine, that's a great looking harvest from a comparatively small growing area. I have grown good sweet potato in baths, but I probably needed to trim the foliage a bit as it seemed to put most of it's energy into growing foliage. In fact the best crop was where the foliage over spilling the bath had rooted in the ground underneath / next to the bath. Mine was the purple coloured type. I have just contacted Green Harvest for some of the Hawaiian Sunshine variety when they get some available. I will try this. Did you trim yours at all? Was the soil mix rich or did you starve the plants a little so that they gave you tubers and not as many leaves?

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on May 15, 2015 at 17:56

But you gotta start somewhere! We ate the tubers and chopped off a piece surrounding the shoots and planted that. From now on, I put stem cuttings in water and when the roots are well developed, plant them.

Comment by Florence on May 15, 2015 at 16:35

Sweet potatoes can be grown from slips, which are just stem/vine cuttings, most people who grow them have a lot of those to spare :P Supposedly better than growing from tubers due to soil borne diseases...

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on May 15, 2015 at 15:24

My seed stock came from the local green grocers. Just conventional commercially grown. Cut open, the raw tubers are variegated purple which cooks up to almost solid purple. They vary in sugar content, grown with some nutrients they are sweeter than just allowed to grow without any extras added.

Comment by Dave Riley on May 15, 2015 at 8:28

FYI: Hawaiin Sunshine is being sold as tubers at the Dickson Street Markets in Morayfield. Elaine's post tweaked my interest and I got some for eating and planting. I gather that the flesh colour ranges from greyish with purple flecking  to purple.

I cannot find any 'seed' stick currently available online.

Dickson Street caters for a Polynesian and Islander trade -- thus the Oca stock there too. (But I can't confirm their current availability as i did not look.)

Also of interest, the best Yam Beans I've eaten can be bought at the Big Fresh Market at Little St, Fortitude Valley. The owner is also keen to buy some off you if you have harvested produce.

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