It is commonly called American potato, even if the big tubers resemble the potatoes only for the shape; in fact the American potatoes, whose botanical name is ipomoea batatas, are the big roots of a convolvulacea, very cultivated also for the flowers and the foliage.
As the common name says, it is a climbing shrub native to Central America, was brought to Europe by the conquistadors, and since then has spread virtually throughout the globe, is mainly cultivated for food, especially in Asia and America.
Cultivating the hypomea
It is a medium sized shrub, perennial, with very decorative foliage, semi-evergreen, most species do not like frost, so if we want to grow it from year to year we will have to keep it in apartment, or put it in the greenhouse during the winter. It is cultivated in a good, rich and loose soil, and is regularly watered, from March to October, less during the cold months. In spring it produces beautiful funnel-shaped flowers, pinkish or purplish in colour.
In the past years in Italy they used to cultivate the American potatoes as apartment plants, placing an entire tuber with the lower half immersed in water, and leaving falling branches that germinated, this type of cultivation inevitably brought the tuber to rotting, because of the large amount of water that surrounded the roots. It is much more advisable to cultivate the tubers, or the shoots, directly in the ground, where they will be able to grow for years.
These plants propagate very easily, so every year we can remove some twigs and make cuttings with rapid development. If left outdoors, in a cold climate, most of the varieties of hypomea batatas tends to lose their foliage and die.
- American potatoes originate in Central and South America, where they are grown for their edible, starchy, slightly sweet potato tubers; these perennial climbing herbaceous plants are also used for the…
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American potatoes in the garden
Some varieties of hypomoea have found for centuries a place in the vegetable gardens of our peninsula; they are cultivated with great ease, burying shoots, tubers or portions of tuber; they are planted in a sunny place, in a very loose and soft soil, so that they can develop without finding excessive resistance in the soil.
The planting is done in March-April, or however when the minimum temperatures are higher than 10-12°C; it is watered in moderation until the plant begins to develop in a lush way, then watering intensifies. When towards the end of summer the foliage tends to yellow, the harvest is ready, the large tubers are extracted from the ground and stored like common potatoes.
LE American potatoes are cooked just like “normal” potatoes, steamed, boiled or baked; they have a fibrous consistency, a sweet taste and a lively red or orange colour.
American potato – Ipomoea batatas: Diseases and pests
Hypomoea plants are not particularly prone to the development of pests and diseases. However, they can immediately attack aphids and mites. The latter, develop when the climate is rather dry and are also identified by the term of red spiders. In this case we will see the leaves of our American potato crumpling and yellowing. To solve the problem, you need to increase the moisture around the plant.
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