As the 2016 crop of Sweet Potatoes is in the beginnings of being harvested, we thought now would be a great time to share some “inside” details on them.
Where are Sweet Potatoes Grown?
Sweet potatoes are mainly grown in 3 areas of the United States.
- North Carolina
They are also grown in some other states but most come from these 3 states. There isn’t much grown in other areas of the world. The United States is the main supply to the world.
European countries have grown in their demand for them over the last few years and can only use supplies from North Carolina. This has fed into the rapid acreage growth in that state. Meanwhile since so many are being exported the MS/LA growing area has seen rapid growth to fill the domestic demand. Recently the Mexican border also has been opened and this will impact our growing demands.
Are Sweet Potatoes different from the varying growing areas?
The answer in short is YES! While all three areas market theirs as being the best they are all good but all different from each other. First you need to understand that there are different varieties grown according to the soil types and weather conditions. An example would be that Mississippi has a very difficult time growing organics compared to NC or CA simply because the uncontrollable bugs. Here is a quick highlight of their differences:
- North Carolina- typically a darker color although some newer varieties are getting lighter. Thicker, heavier skin. Excellent for export when they need to make a 20 day trip across the high seas.
- Mississippi/Louisiana- a lighter colored skin. Somewhat smoother than NC. They have several varieties that grow both long & thin and others that are round softball shaped. Overall a litter better appearance.
- California- the smoothest skin of them all with a nice even color. They come from the Livingston, CA area and are stunning.
Growing and Harvesting Sweet Potatoes.
Sweet potatoes growing best in a sandier soil that offers good drainage. They enjoy warmer temperatures as well. They are planted in the spring, harvested in the fall and then held in large storages to offer a year around supply. What that means is today, August 22, if you ate a sweet potato it was dig from the ground in the fall of 2015! Incredible right?!
Harvesting starts when a tractor runs thru the field and turns over the rows to reveal the sweet potatoes and piles them in rows. After that happens there are 2 main options to choose from. To mechanically dig or to use buckets crews. Mechanically digging is far less expensive and efficient as machines do all the work. The down side is the product gets banged up more as machines don’t have caring hands. Buckets crews are simply crews of hard working folks with large buckets that they hand harvest the sweet potatoes into buckets and then load them on to larger trucks to take them from the field.
Here is a short video showing what a bucket crew at work looks like. This is back breaking work as you can see. (Thank you Vick Family Farms Brand for the video.)
Pretty amazing isn’t it? Well we hope this information has been helpful. Feel free if you have any questions to give us a shout out.
In the meanwhile here is a LINK to our ever growing database of listed Sweet Potato Produce Brands