Last year I utilized the new Treasure Island Sweet Potato vines (hybrids of Ipomoea batatas) in my patio containers and this gardener found a new appreciation for these tuberous vegetables. And I’m ready to celebrate this superfood with my fellow gardeners. This root vegetable has seen an increase in popularity, especially compared to “regular” potatoes, due in part to being a healthier option. Sweet potatoes are lower in carbs, higher in antioxidant levels like lutein, have increased levels of vitamins, a lower glycemic index which means less blood sugar spikes and are a great source of fiber, iron, and calcium.
The best part? They are easy to grow!
A New Day Dawns for Sweet Potatoes
Generally, these potatoes fall into two garden uses;
- Annual ornamental trailing vine. Home gardeners utilize them as a container ‘spiller’: a trailing plant. This type does not usually produce any edible tubers.
- Traditional sweet potato. Used in the vegetable garden to harvest and cook its edible tubers.
But, for this gardener, this typical scenario recently changed when I was introduced to the Treasure Island Sweet Potato line. They are a breeding breakthrough as the first edible AND ornamental sweet potatoes on the market. It’s like a two-for-one deal; the uniquely shaped, colorful leaves look great in mixed containers and taste great in salads and smoothies and then the different colored sweet potatoes are highly nutritious and make a perfect addition to healthy meals.
Named after Polynesian Islands, there are 5 selections and none of them are what you’d consider typical:
*PPAF stands for Plant Patent Applied For.
Let’s Get Growing
Living in a condo overlooking Lake Erie, I grew my Treasure Island Sweet Potatoes in mixed containers.
Here are a few final growing tips from the breeders:
- Soil is key. Growing in containers may cause shape variability in the roots but they are still delicious! The best-shaped roots will come from plantings in the ground. Potted plants will form the best roots in heavy garden soil.
- Normal practice is to plant sweet potato about 1 foot (30 cm) apart in a row and rows 3 feet (90 cm) apart. Remember to plant deeper so fresh nodes are in the soil to form the best-shaped roots.
My fellow garden communicator Brie Arthur of Brie Grows produced her plants in the ground. Read her blog post to find out her experience in growing the Treasure Island Sweet Potatoes as a groundcover and her experience in cooking with them.
National Garden Bureau’s recent post on making Sweet Potato Skins using Treasure Island Sweet Potatoes Tatakoto and Tahiti.
Finally, Let’s Get Cooking
I received a fresh batch of the sweet potatoes to trial in the kitchen from the breeder. I literally spent one weekend researching recipes and the next one cooking and baking like crazy; it was FUN. I morphed into the #HomeCookinTheLand and the #HomeBakerinTheLand.
The first recipe was Mexican Chicken, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Skillet GF (gluten free) and I utilized ‘Manihi’. This was appealing because it is a 1-pot dish. This recipe taught me how to parboil the sweet potatoes in the microwave.
I’ve been a Sweet Potato Fries (GF) lover for years, but I’d never made my own before. This recipe from the Barefoot Contessa was so easy and I’ve already gotten multiple requests to duplicate from my family! I utilized ‘Kaukura’ and served them alongside grilled chicken tenders over lettuce. Tip: try dipping sweet potato fries in honey. Trust me on this, just trust me.
When I came across Whiskey-Glazed Sweet Potatoes from Guy Fieri of Food Network, I was like yes, I must try! I used a mix of ‘Manihi’ and ‘Kaukura’ and ‘Gala’ apples.
Additional recipes I tried were Bacon-Guacamole Bites on Sweet Potato Chips (GF) made with ’Kaukura’ and‘Tatakoto’ from The Wellness Mamacookbook; a Chocolate Mousse Pie (GF, dairy free) made with ‘Manihi’ from the Bakerita cookbook and Sweet Potato, Blue Cheese and Spinach Frittata made with ‘Makatea” from The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet book.