If one were to wander out to Loy Farms right now, one would discover an abundance of a very popular vegetable; the sweet potato.
The sweet potato has been North Carolina’s state vegetable since 1995, thanks to the letter writing campaign of a fourth grade class in Wilson, NC. Native Americans were growing sweet potatoes in North Carolina when Columbus arrived in America in 1492. More than 40 percent of sweet potatoes come from North Carolina, which equals out to about 50,000 acres every year.
Sweet potatoes require a frost-free climate with moist soil. North Carolina’s long Indian summers, along with adequate watering of almost an inch per week, help ensure that roots are able to set well. Regular potatoes can handle colder weather, but sweet potatoes need to be nice and warm! The plant itself is leafy and vine-like, with the sweet potatoes themselves underground, so it important to space them out when planting.
As Andrea shows us below, each sweet potato is unique in its shape and size. The deep orange types are sometimes called yams, and there are other varieties such as “Centennial” and “Georgia Jet.” But all sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins A and C along with other minerals. You can eat them raw, boiled, or baked in soups, casseroles, desserts and more! Check out our food page for some recipes. You will probably have some delicious sweet potatoes in a few weeks during Thanksgiving, especially if you are here in North Carolina. Enjoy!