Eating Sweet Potato Leaves - An Edible and Versatile Food Forest Addition

Florida food forest sweer potato

Are sweet potato leaves edible? Yes, they certainly are. Sweet potato leaves have become an important food source for our family, and it is an easy-to-grow green addition to the food forest, which can be harvested almost all year round here in Northeast Florida, and in Central and South Florida it can easily become an all-year food source.

We started growing sweet potatoes years ago, when we became worried about the preservatives in baby food. 

It is easy to grow sweet potato slips from store-bought sweet potatoes, and we have found that organic sweet potatoes have a better success rate.

Why Sweet Potato Leaves Are Important in the Food Forest:

  • Sweet potato vines can be grown year-round in Florida.
  • Sweet potatoes are easy to start from store-bought sweet potatoes.
  • Sweet potatoes are a low maintenance vegetable, and once it gets established, you can leave it alone.
  • Sweet potato leaves are a great source of vitamin A, but also contains vitamins K, C, B1, B2, B3 and B9.
  • Sweet potato leaves are a source of zinc, manganese and copper.
  • Sweet potato leaves are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. 
  • Sweet potato leaves contain Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Sweet potato leaves are a fast-growing food source.
  • Sweet potato leaves are great to use as chicken food.
  • Sweet potato leaves and vines are an excellent chop and drop green.
  • Sweet potato leaves are a great ground cover to prevent weeds.
  • Sweet potato leaves can be eaten raw, sautéed and be used in stews.
  • Ones cut, the sweet potato leaves will last long if put in a glass of cold water.
  • Sweet potatoes are a low-maintenance root vegetable, and the sweet potato tops are a great green that thrives in the heat of summer.

Growing sweet potato leaves

We have one main sweet potato bed at our food forest at the land, but at our home we also grow sweet potatoes as a ground cover beneath banana trees and in a raised bed next to the chicken coop. At the sweet potato bed next to the chicken coop, we let the sweet potato vines grow up and above the chicken enclosure letting the vines fall down above the roof, and the chicken can then fly up on top of the chicken coop and get a treat of sweet potato leaves.

While we often give sweet potato greens to the chickens, they prefer to nibble on the fresh leaves on the vines, and whenever we are in the side garden, we open up the gate inti our garden and let them feast in the sweet potato bed.

We also grow sweet potatoes vines as a ground cover below our banana trees, which prevents weeds, and then we chop and drop at the bottom of the banana trees, whenever the vines begin to take over, which serves as a natural fertilizer. 

Growing sweet potatoes

To get the best sweet potatoes, it is important to have good, loose and well-draining soil. In areas with hard compacted soil, we still grow the sweet potato vines, but the sweet potatoes are small.

Rooting sweet potato vines

Once you have one established sweet potato vine, it is easy to take cuttings and start new slips. The vines grow roots, where these grow leaves, and if there are no roots, the sweet potato slips can easily be rooted in water in a few days.

Making sweet potato slips

We try to share our bounty and often give away sweet potato slips to other gardeners, and it is a great way to get more people interested in growing their own food because of the low maintenance. 

How To Use Sweet Potato Leaves:

We use sweet potato leaves in the same way that we would use spinach. The taste is mild but slightly bitter, and it therefore blends in well in many dishes. 

Uses for Sweet Potato Greens:

  • Salads
  • Stir-fry
  • Stews
  • Curries
  • Soups
  • Green Juices 
  • Pizzas Toppings
  • Ingredient in sauces such as tomato sauce or bolognese.

Harvesting sweet potato leaves

When we harvest the leaves, we make sure not to take too many leaves from one spot. Any leaf with insect damage is fed to the chickens or the banana trees. 

We do not use any form of pesticides, and while we do see a little insect damage, it is nothing that bothers us. We prefer eating food free of pesticides, preservatives and chemicals, and we try to grow enough for us and wild life.

Deer enjoys the sweet potato leaves, so if you are in a deer prone area, you may want to protect your sweet potato patch.

Cooking with sweet potato leaves

We harvest the sweet potato leaves with the stem, then leave these in a glass of cold water until we use it, and the leaves hold up well even several days later.

This year we barely had any rain all spring and summer in our little part of Northeast Florida, and while the sweet potato leaves would look sad in the midday sun, we never watered, and now that rain has finally arrived the sweet potato vines are taking over.

When you have chickens and banana trees, fast-growing edible plants are a bonus, because this means free chicken food and banana fertilizers. Sweet potato leaves are an easy-to-grow green that works well in Florida without much car, and with the rising food costs, sweet potato leaves are a great alternative to many other greens in the grocery store.

Learn how to make sweet potato slips here.


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