Sweet Potatoes Feed Tropical Gardeners

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Champon of the Underdog » Tropical Gardening » Sweet Potatoes Feed Tropical Gardeners

Introducing Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) belong to the bindweed or morning glory family of plant. This large, starchy, sweet-tasting, tuber has to be one of the very easiest vegetables to grow in the tropics.

Cultivars of the sweet potato have been bred to bear tubers with flesh and skin of various colours. Darker coloured sweet potatoes are referred to as ‘yams’ in much of North America. 

Growing Sweet Potatoes

Location and Soil

Sweet potato grows unbelievably well in the tropics. If the paw paw is our pick for the ‘easy to grow fruit’ in the tropics, then the sweet potato is the ‘easy to grow vegetable’. Once planted it is almost unstoppable!

Crumbly loose soil that has organic material in it is the best home for this tropical vegetable. Boggy water-logged soil should be avoided, as any tubers that grow there could rot. 


Sweet potatoes can be grown from cuttings from an existing vine, or by simply buying a tuber and planting it.


Fertilising Sweet Potatoes

When sweet potato is located with a good growing medium, I find that you don’t need much fertiliser. Normally, after harvesting my sweet potato, I simply gather the old vine and place it in the chosen location and cover it with sheep manure. Alternatively, you could loosely cover the old vine with soil and sprinkle some blood and bone on the top and water in.

That should be all the fertilising that is needed until the next harvest time in 4 to 6 months.


After they are established, sweet potatoes do not need a lot of water to survive. However, it is best to keep the planted area moist with one inch of water once a week. One should not water sweet potatoes in the last three weeks before harvesting. Stopping water helps to prevent the tubers from splitting.


Many pests can to reduce the quality and yield of sweet potatoes.

Soil insect pests damage the roots directly are the most troublesome pests.

Foliage feeding insects can harm the plants indirectly, but usually only at very high numbers. Personally, I am happy to share my sweet potato leaves with a few grasshoppers, as there is always more than enough foliage to both of us.

Sweet Potato Weevil

The biggest enemy of the sweet potato is the sweet potato weevil.. The adult weevil attacks both the vines and the tubers. The sweetpotato weevil is a great cause of crop loss in developing countries.

Sweet Potato root knot nematode

Sweet potato root knot nematode (Meloidogyne spp) is one of the major known nematode pests of sweet potato in the tropics. It attacks fibers and roots, allowing other pathogens to penetrate the plant through the wounds.


Whiteflies are common pests of many plants. The species, Bemisia tabaci, is a particularly serious pest of sweetpotato.

Eating The Fruit

The young leaves can be plucked from the vine and eaten as greens.

Once, you have scrubbed clean you sweet potato tubers they can be eaten with or without the skin.

You can eat sweet potato steamed, mash or roasted or indeed in stews or salads. Numerous recipes can be found online.

Health Benefits

It’s rich in the antioxidant beta carotene, which is effective in raising blood levels of vitamin A, particularly in children.

Blood Pressure

You should avoid foods that contain high amounts of added salt. Instead it is recommended consume more potassium-rich foods to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.

Sweet potato is a good source of potassium and assist in reducing blood pressure.


Antioxidants such as beta-carotene can help prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals. If levels of free radicals in the body get too high, cellular damage can occur, which increases the risk of some conditions.


Sweet potatoes contain fibre that is essential to gut health and in helping to prevent constipation. A high fibre diet is also linked to reduced rates of colorectal cancers. 

This healthy and easy to grow vegetable is a great addition to any tropical garden.

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By Rob Pyne

Quadriplegic, Former MP, Councillor & Political Campaigner: Rob is an Eco Socialist who shares ways to survive & fight capitalism. #socialism #championoftheunderdog Occupation: Online Editor Employer: Champion of the Underdog! Book: Struggle and Resistance in the Far North

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