A friend of mine recently asked when she should harvest her sweet potatoes. It might seem a simple matter in other climates with a distinct fall frost, but here in the Sonoran Desert the growing seasons are sometimes out of sync with the rest of the U.S. It isn’t always obvious when to plant or harvest a given plant.
Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are vines that produce large, edible tuberous roots.
I planted ours last spring after we had harvested the winter vegetables. I simply planted some sweet potatoes from the grocery store that had sprouted. Even commercially-grown sweet potatoes are started from sprouts rather than seeds.
A few of the leaves started to yellow over the last week, so we decided it was time to harvest.
Looking for leaves yellowing was a good clue because we had a number of good-sized sweet potatoes just in time for Thanksgiving.
Have you ever grown sweet potatoes? We also found out that wherever the main vines touched the soil, they rooted and produced a tuber. Sometimes after there were several in a string along a vine, the vine would go above ground for a few feet and then touch down a produce a few more tubers. The farther from the main plant, the smaller the tubers.
Very interesting plant!
We planted some lettuce mix last fall. Not much came up, except this curly endive.
It was rather bitter and no one in our family really cared for it.
That’s why we didn’t really mind when it started to bolt, or go to flower.
Actually, we were glad it did flower, because it revealed its “roots” so to speak. Have you ever seen an endive flower?
Does this blue flower look familiar? This is the endive flower, but it looks like the flower of another plant.
It reminded us of the roadside weed called common chicory.
The plant we call curly endive is Cichorium endivia. The common roadside wildflower is Cichorium intybus, a member of the same genus.
Common chicory roots are used as a coffee substitute or additive. Its leaves can be used in salads as well, although they are also known to be bitter.
I will never look at endive in quite the same way now I know its relatives. What about you?
See Purdue for more information about common chicory.
A lot of gardening is about timing. Plant at the right time, water at the right time, harvest at the right time.
In the low desert of Arizona, things become more complicated because we have at least two planting seasons. The cold season crops go in starting in mid- to late- October (I’ve learned to wait until the nasturtiums start to pop up, which means the soil is cool enough for cold season crops to germinate.) The warm season plants go in after the chance of the last frost, usually February.
There are always a few plants that I just don’t don’t have a good feel for, including green beans and potatoes.
This year we planted our potatoes in January.
The plants started going down this week, so we decided to dig. Looks like January was a perfect time to plant them.
Now we want to learn how to preserve some of the potatoes so that we can plant the same variety next year. Do you have any ideas?
The University of Arizona has a vegetable planting guide for different elevations of Arizona. Looks like I need to replace the potato plants with sweet potatoes at this time of year.