Before frost comes each autumn, we spend hours and hours digging sweet potatoes. This crop is dear to us, one that not so many growers grow, and that is so tasty and nutritious. We start by transplanting “slips” into a freshly tilled and bedded field. Sweet potatoes are one of the few crops we grow on raised beds. That gives the roots plenty of soft ground to form in, and makes it much easier to harvest. After the long warm ummer, the vigorous vines have completely covered the field. In order to see what we’re doing at harvest time, I bring in the bushhog and mow the tops of the plants.
You can see the trickle irrigation tape running down the center of the bed. Now that we can see what is what, it’s time to bring in the beloved Bartschi root digger. The driver keeps the machine moving very slowly straddling the bed, while two people “birth” the roots behind.
Stephen and Zeke are catching the roots as they become unearthed, making sure they don’t get reburied by soil, or fall into the abyss that the root lifting blade creates. Now the rest of the crew can come in and calmly and quietly collect the sweet potatoes, separating them from the vine.
Unlike sweet potatoes from the store, these roots come in every possible shape and size. Some of the biggest are over 4 pounds! As long as it’s edible, we consider even strange ones food too. So, from about 3000 plants, we harvested 235 green pony baskets of potatoes. That’s about 6000 pounds of goodness.