March: Sweet Potatoes

Spring is coming, and of the many garden tasks requiring attention right now, starting sweet potato 'slips' is one of the easiest and most rewarding.


George Washington Carver invented nearly as many uses for the sweet potato as he did for the peanut.  First grade teachers can use this lesson to learn more about Dr. Carver's 'sweet' experiments while covering GPS SS1H1.  Other grades can also connect sweet potatoes to their curriculum through health and wellness, life cycles, math, even the water cycle.


The sweet potato originated in Central or South America and has been an important food source for cultures around the globe.  People commonly mistake sweet potatoes for yams, and though grocery stores market sweet potatoes as yams, yams are actually from a different plant family altogether, originating in Africa and other tropical countries (see this link for more details).


Sweet potato 'slips' are the sprouts that grow from a single sweet potato.  After they grow to a few inches or longer, the slips can be gently broken off the potato and set in a cup of water like a flower bouquet.  The submerged part of the slip will grow roots, and once that happens, the slip can be planted in the ground.  A single sweet potato can produce 10-30 slips, as it will continue to regrow slips after the first round is picked.


If you start this week, your slips will be ready to plant in May and will grow with minimum care all summer long, providing a bountiful harvest of sweet potatoes to dig up in early September.


Start the slips in your classroom by following the directions in this simple video:



Enjoy, and please share your inventions on this site!