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Harvesting and Curing Sweet Potatoes

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Date: September 16, 2020
Agent: Donna Teasley

Hello, this is Donna Teasley, horticulture agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Burke Center.

It’s about time to dig sweet potatoes here in western North Carolina and about this time every year I get questions about how to care for sweet potatoes after harvest.

Even though sweet potatoes may be dug and eaten immediately, many sweet potatoes must be harvested and then stored until they can be eaten. A process called curing is used to tighten the skin of the sweet potato and allows any abrasions to heal. Curing also makes a sweeter potato as starches turn to sugar in the process.

When sweet potatoes are cured they must be kept at a constant temperature of about 85 degrees and at a relative humidity of 85 to 95 percent for 5 to 7 days. The cured sweet potatoes should then be kept at a temperature of 55 to 65 degrees until they are ready to be eaten.

When buying sweet potatoes, don’t refrigerate them at home as this can cause them to become bitter tasting. Store them in a dry cool place and plan on using them within two weeks.

North Carolina is the number one producer of sweet potatoes in the United States and most are sold in this country although small quantities go to Canada and Great Britain. They are native to our state and were first cultivated by the American Indians. Although most commercial production takes place in the eastern part of the state, the sweet potato grows well in the home gardens of Burke County.

This is Donna Teasley with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Burke Center. If you would like more information on this program you can call us at 439-4460.