Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Frazier White Sweet Potato

We grew 2 kinds of sweet potatoes last summer. I have to say neither of them did well but it was our first time growing sweet potatoes, and the beginning of the summer was definitely not good growing weather for them. I understand that most of the bulking up of the roots takes place right at the end of the growing season, and if it is shortened in any way you will lose a lot of volume. I assume that is what happened. From 12 slips, we got 11 pounds.

However, we did get enough to try them out. These Frazier White sweet potatoes were a new variety for us. We found them very interesting. I expected them to be a bit plainer and starchier than the usual sweet potatoes, but they were neither. They were very sweet, although somewhat mild tasting. They were not quite such a nice colour when cooked, turning a little yellowy-brown - you can see them on top of the Shepherd's Pie I made with them - but fine, really. I would grow them again in the hope of a better harvest next time.

Sweet potatoes need a long growing season, warm and moist for best results, although sweet potatoes are quite drought resistant. Frazier White has a 90 to 105 day growing season, which means timing to get them in must be just right: not too early, but as early as possible to ensure the time required. Next year, I think we will probably cover our sweet potatoes with a hoop house for the first couple of weeks at least. As far as sweet potatoes go, that is a fairly short growing season.

One of our two sweet potatoes bloomed steadily for us this summer, and one did not. I was quite surprised since William Woys Weaver commented in his book, Heirloom Vegetable Gardening, that he had never had a sweet potato bloom in many years of growing them in Pennsylvania. Alas, I no longer recall which one bloomed and which one didn't, but I think it was Georgia Jet and not Frazier White. If they had both bloomed, there might have been seed, which is how new varieties of sweet potatoes are produced. Backyard hybrids are common in the U.S. south, and it is probable that that is the origin of Frazier White.

Frazier White is generally described as an heirloom sweet potato, but I can find no trace of its origins. It is not, as far as I can see on a quick perusal, mentioned by that name in James Fitz's 1886 book Sweet Potato Culture.

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