Sweet Potato Slips
Sweet potatoes don’t grow from seeds. They are one of those fascinating regenerative vegetables. Plant a sweet potato and it will grow baby sweet potatoes. Onions, ginger, turmeric, cassava, and potatoes all fall into this crazy category. Wouldn’t it be so cool if we could grow our own babies all by ourselves? Well, maybe I should save that for another discussion.
Anyway, since I won’t be growing my own baby, this year I’m sticking with a few different kinds of sweet potatoes. Luckily, people like to share their favorites, and will give you a couple of little ones to regenerate. Unluckily it’s too cold to plant them outside right now (even though it seems ridiculously warm for April). They do much better if started inside, and will commence to growing out their leafy green shoots called “slips.”
There is a lot of silly information out there about the best way to grow out sweet potato slips. One year I followed directions to put them in a cooler with an open jar of warm water. After several days of trying to remember to add more warm water to the cooler, I noticed something growing. It wasn’t a green slip, instead white mold was beginning to form on the outsides of all my little sweet potatoes! That was a failed experiment. Lots of folks recommend putting the roots half submerged in a glass of water to grow slips. My husband got this to work with one or two potatoes, but many of them rotted making a lovely mess that no amount of putting through the dishwasher seemed to remedy.
I was lamenting my failure to my friend Monica who is a legitimate farmer, and she said, “I just plant them in soil.” Duh.
So my next conundrum was finding the right kind of pot for this seemingly simple task. A lot of pots are square or round, and sweet potatoes are kind of long. In bed one night unable to sleep (I feel fortunate that this is what keeps me up at night) I solved two problems. The new style of egg packaging in clear plastic containers was causing a mess on top of my fridge cause I was saving them for having chickens someday. I realized they would be the perfect pot for sweet potato slips.
The next day I cut plastic egg crates in half, poked some holes in the tops, filled them with sweet potatoes and soil, and used the bottom to catch drips of water from the repurposed pots. The oblong shape of the containers worked perfectly for the oblong roots, and fit nicely on my window sill.
Three weeks later lots of green shoots emerge from the soil. Making babies. I dig it.