North Carolina is a strong national producer of fresh and processed vegetable commodities, serving local and international market demands. The U.S. Agriculture 2012 report ranked the state a top ten vegetable producer in sweet potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, squash, cabbage, watermelons, and sweet corn.
Harvest of sweetpotatoes occurs around 90-120 days after planting. The only way to know if sweetpotatoes are ready for harvest is to dig up the roots and evaluate them for the size you prefer. Following harvest, sweetpotatoes are typically cured with temperature and humidity (80-85F & 90% humidity) to help develop a sweet taste and aroma. For the home gardener, this might be accomplished by placing sweetpotatoes in a container in a warm room and covering the container with a piece of plastic for 5-7 days. Following curing, sweetpotatoes can be stored in a cool, dark place for several months.
Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are grown for commercial and home garden production in North Carolina. Most of the commercial potato production acreage (20,000 acres) is located in eastern North Carolina. Approximately 80% of the commercial potato crop is sold and processed into potato chips, while the remainder of the crop is sold as fresh market (table stock) potatoes for boiling and baking. Potatoes provide an added source of income to farmers in rural, eastern North Carolina and are often grown in rotation with lower economic value field crops such as corn, sorghum, soybean and wheat. Diseases, insects, unbalanced soil fertility, poor stand establishment and weeds continue to influence the production of healthy potato crops in North Carolina.
Did you know the sweet potato was officially designated the State Vegetable of North Carolina by the General Assembly of 1995 And with good reason! More than 40 percent of the national supply of sweet potatoes comes from our great state. According to healthline.com, the health benefits from this root vegetable are pretty impressive also! They are full of fiber and antioxidants, which helps in aiding with digestion and overall gut health. The orange color lets you know they are full of beta-carotene. Your body converts that to Vitamin A which boosts your eye health, as well as your immune system. But on top of all that They are delicious! And you can do more than just bake them.
Surprisingly, the sweet potato is not at all related to the potato. The sweet potato belongs to the root family, while the potato is a tuber. Sweet potatoes are frequently confused with yams, though these are also two distinctly different vegetables. While sweet potatoes are indigenous to North America, the yam comes from West Africa and Asia. According to legend, the early enslaved Africans in America saw similarities between the sweet potato and the vegetable of their homeland and introduced the word \"yam.\" Three West African languages have words that may be the origin of the word \"yam.\" These words, the Fulani and Wolof word nyami and the Twi word anyinam, all mean \"to eat.\" Today, most 'yams' marketed in the United States are actually sweet potatoes.
The harvesting of sweet potatoes is a common sight in Eastern North Carolina now during the fall season. Sweet potatoes are a bragging point in our region with North Carolina being number one for sweet potato production in the United States. North Carolina produces 50% of the sweet potatoes in the United States. There are some 350 commercial sweet potato farmers in North Carolina. In 2013, 53,000 acres of sweet potatoes were grown in North Carolina for a total of 212 billion individual sweet potatoes with a farm gate value of $228.9 million. North Carolina even designated the sweet potato as the official state vegetable in 1995.
Central Americans were raising sweet potatoes when Christopher Columbus first landed on their shores in 1942. He liked the vegetable so much that on his fourth voyage, he took some home to grow in Europe.
North Carolina leads all other states in sweet potato production, producing 45% of the national supply; Mississippi is second with 20%. North Carolina has 46,000 acres of farmland devoted to growing sweet potatoes. Tar Heel producers are concentrated primarily along and east of the I-95 corridor, and Nash County farmers produce the most sweet potatoes in the Tar Heel State.
Sweet potatoes; photo by Natalie Maynor on Flickr (use permitted with attribution).Sweet PotatoNorth Carolina designated the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) as the official state vegetable in 1995. Native Americans were growing sweet potatoes in North Carolina long before European colonization. North Carolina is the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the United States, harvesting over four billion pounds of the vegetable in 1989.
One of the most important factors in determining shelf-life is produce quality. Damaged fruits and vegetables will not last as long, and should not be placed in long-term storage as they could reduce shelf-life of the other stored crops. Post-harvest handling practices also affect how long a vegetable or fruit will stay fresh. Many crops need to be cooled quickly once harvested from the garden or field, in order to maximize shelf-life. Sweet potatoes and winter squash require 2-week curing periods of 85-95 degrees F following harvest. Then, they should be stored at 55-60 degrees F, with the exception of Acorn squash, which does better at 45-50 degrees. However, sweet potatoes prefer a humid curing and storage environment (90-95% relative humidity), whereas pumpkins and squash do better in low humidity (65-70%). Many homes during winter are too dry for even pumpkins, so if you are storing these in your living areas, you may observe some shriveling due to dehydration over the winter. Do not store them in the refrigerator, unless you are storing them after having cut the vegetable.
A few other practices are important for maximizing storage shelf-life. Plan to sanitize storage containers and areas yearly to reduce decay from molds or disease. Make a plan for preventing rodents or controlling them should they become an issue. Never store apples with potatoes or carrots as they produce ethylene, and will cause bitterness and sprouting. Potatoes can lend a musty flavor to apples when stored together. Cabbages, rutabaga, turnips, and other members of the cabbage family should be kept in an outdoor storage area as they can produce strong odors that are not desirable in a home. More detailed information on storing vegetables and plans for building your own storage areas.
Potatoes are a wonderful and easy vegetable to grow for feeding the family, as well as for sharing with hungry neighbors. Potatoes are a cool-season crop most often planted in early spring in Georgia. In order to have a successful crop the homeowner must provide good soil, ample water and proper fertilization. This publication discusses selecting the right types of potatoes, proper planting, maintenance and troubleshooting problems.
Potatoes are definitely one of America's favorite vegetables. Did you know that each year we eat about 125 pounds of potatoes per person Potatoes are a staple food and many home gardeners plant potatoes to store them for the fall and winter months. Knowing how to take care of your homegrown potatoes is important so that they store well.
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