Sweet Potato Chips with Cayenne Pepper

Sweet Potato PlantThe sweet potato is native to the tropical regions of the Americas and is only distantly related to the potato family. Therefore, it’s not the easiest plant to grow in our climate!

Sweet potatoes will not survive in cold temperatures. If you attempt to grow them outdoors in the UK, you’ll need moisture-retentive, free-draining soil and a sheltered, sunny spot.

How to grow sweet potatoes

The RHS advises laying black polythene over the soil several weeks before planting, from late March or April as the ground starts to warm up. Grow the plants in a bright, frost-free position in the greenhouse or sunny windowsill until the end of May, early June. Pot on as necessary and then harden off before planting outdoors, in slits through the polythene.

It’s still essential to cover sweet potatoes with a cloche or fleece as the increase in temperature this generates makes all the difference to the health of the plant. Overwinter plants in a frost-free greenhouse or windowsill.

If you’re growing indoors or in a greenhouse, grow in a large tub or grow bag and transplant once the plant has plenty of roots. Foliage can be trained up string, canes or a trellis. Sweet potatoes crop best at temperatures between 21-26°C (70-80°F) and need to be regularly watered.

Varieties of sweet potato

I’ve been given a Beauregard variety of sweet potato, and I’m growing it in a pot on the patio under a cloche. So far, it’s growing well, thanks to the recent spell of hot weather. In fact, it is outgrowing its cloche, and I have to tuck in its tendrils at night.
 

Sweet Potato Cloche
Tubers will take 4-5 months to mature and can be lifted from late September. However, it’s best to leave the tubers until the leaves begin to turn yellow and die back – but make sure you harvest before the first frost.

The RHS recommends the following varieties:

‘Beauregard Improved’: similar to the tubers on supermarket shelves. Tubers have distinctive salmon-orange flesh that's well flavoured and sweet.

’Henry’: a compact variety, tubers develop as a cluster beneath the foliage. Ideal for containers.

‘Georgia Jet’: early maturing, productive and reliable throughout the UK. Flesh is deep orange and very tasty.

‘T65’: red-tinted skin colour and creamy white flesh. Reliable and vigorous, with good sized tubers.

How to cook sweet potatoes

As a root vegetable, sweet potatoes can be treated in a similar way to parsnips, swede and turnips. That means you can boil or bake them, mash them or turn them into chips.

Unlike normal potatoes, sweet potatoes count towards your 5-a-day because they’re lower in starch than other carbohydrates and higher in fibre. They also contain four essential micronutrients: vitamin C, thiamin, potassium and manganese – making them much healthier than your standard potato.

Sweet potato chips with cayenne pepper

My favourite way to cook sweet potatoes is to cut them into chips and cover them in cayenne pepper and olive oil, then roast them in the oven for about 25 minutes on a medium to high heat.

They are soft, sweet and spicy and delicious as a snack or a side.

 

Sweet Potato Chips