When I pulled sweet potatoes out of the ground a week ago, I learned a lot of new things about sweet potatoes. For instance, you can’t just eat them right out of the ground. They need to be cured first in order to turn the starches into sugars.
I do not have a hot and humid place in my house, but luckily the internet is a great resource, and had a viable solution for the average gardening hobbyist. It’s a pretty simple setup, and works remarkably well. A simple light bulb is used as a heat source, a pan of water to provide humidity, and a towel and thermometer to help keep things under control. Note: you’ll need an incandescent bulb, CFLs and LEDs aren’t going to put out much heat. I started out with a 60-watt bulb, and when that burnt out I changed to a 40-watt.
Place a 9×13 pan in the oven with a few cups of water in it. Turn the oven on for 5-10 minutes to heat everything up. Wait until it cools down to 90°F, then put the light bulb in the oven – plugged in. I tried to locate the light bulb near the center of the oven – it needs to be 6 inches away from the nearest sweet potato. Despite the photos, no potatoes go in the oven until the temperature has stabilized.
How to Cure Sweet Potatoes at Home (credit for the awesome idea)
1. Dig the potatoes. Brush off the dirt. Let them dry out for a few hours (do not wash! I rinsed mine with a hose and they don’t seem to have suffered any ill effects).
2. Get a light bulb on a cord and a pan of water. Put the pan of water in the oven and let it the oven heat up to 90°F.
3. Place the light bulb in the oven and plug in the cord. Crack the oven door open with a towel or similar. Let the temperature stabilize for about an hour – you may need to add or remove folds of the towel to achieve the desired temperature.
4. When the temp is stable at 90°F, add the potatoes to the oven. They should not touch each other.
5. Let the sweet potatoes cure for 5 to 7 days, periodically checking the temp and making sure there is water in the pan.
Easy as that! I cured a few of the tiny tubers to maybe use as seed potatoes in the spring. One potato seemed to have started rotting a little during the curing process – the giant potato that was bigger than my trowel. I will eat that one first (probably for three meals!). Other than that, the rest look great.