It's been a long time that we've been waiting to harvest our sweet potatoes. They require anywhere from 100 to 140 days to mature, depending upon their variety. Ours were somewhere in the middle. We were holding off until we had the perfect setting in which to harvest them and it was well worth it - our visiting SPROUT group from Tree of Life Public Charter School were besides themselves with excitement.
While all vegetables are exciting to harvest, there is something particularly magical to children about pulling unseen roots and tubers from their home in the dark, rich soil. Our viney sweet potatoes seemed like a jungle, which added another element of wonder.
The children learned about sweet potatoes (they are native to the Americas, while yams are native to Africa) and how nutritious they are (loaded with Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber). Then we set to work digging. Youth garden adult staff members used pitch forks to loosen up the soil, being careful not to puncture the sweet potatoes we couldn't see. Then the children spread out and dug around until they found the buried treasure, usually letting us know they have found something by way of a very loud but excited scream.
Since we let our sweet potatoes stay in the ground for a long time, some were as big as footballs. Most were a manageable size though. We gave the largest one to the children to take back and have in their classroom and will donate the rest to a local soup kitchen.
Saving Seeds for Biodiversity by Thomas Christopher
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