This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Many and various articles appear in our agricultural and horticultural journals of the day upon the different races of the vegetable kingdom; but strange it seems to us, that thus far we have not been permitted the pleasure of a treatise upon the preservation, during winter, of the sweet potato. (I hope, Mr. Editor, that you don't think that this is not a horticultural subject)
We are inclined to believe that a few words regarding this esculent will not come amiss to many readers; for, as easy as the cultivation and success attending it during the summer or growing months, so difficult becomes the entire success to keep them over winter, when the price would range highest; while at present they command exorbitant prices for seed, during spring, being frequently sent hundreds of miles, proving a negligence in our nurserymen or our intelligent farmers, to the agricultural interests of their neighborhoods.
Several trials have been made to transport them from this part of the country over the plains to Pike's Peak, in the fall of the year. The only method that has met with success is the following: They are carefully taken up, and the ground adhering is washed off clean; they are then dried until they are perfectly so; then wrapped carefully in fine paper, just as our grocers receive their oranges.
For the last few years the writer has been experimenting in keeping them, so as to have them fit for market or the table any time during the winter, with only partial success, and hopes those who have had some experience will let their light shine, so that all may see. It is said that we are a progressive people; we therefore desire to learn all we can, if not for our pecuniary benefit, at least to make the saying true. The method with which we have been most successful is the following : We dug a cellar under a warm room; the sides of our cellar are lined with boards an inch thick; back of the boards are rammed in ashes and lime, to aid in absorbing the moisture that may spring out of the earth; in the bottom of the cellar a coating of cement is put on, also to insure dryness.
The potatoes are placed in bins sixteen or eighteen inches in depth. We place the potatoes as follows: Commencing in the middle of a bin, laying down first a few, then placing the others, or rather setting them, against those, forming a cone; then pouring dry sand over them until covered, placing potatoes against the sand (as before) until the bin is full. Concerning all potatoes, to persona who have not sand handy, dry coarse dust will answer as well. The object of placing them endwise in a conical heap: we find that in sweating the moisture passes off more readily, though they should be permitted to undergo a sweat before stowing them away. The temperature, if possible, should range between 45° and 60° Fahrenheit. We have preserved them in this manner, and used them during winter until April, (and probably could a month longer, if desirable.) good as they are in the fall, fresh from mother earth.
The main object in having all things dry is, first, it appears that none can possibly be kept when there is any moisture, except such as comes from sweating; secondly, if any should rot, being dry, they will not so easily infect others.
Should any be much wilted, freshness can be restored by placing them in moist soil a day or two before using.
[ "Ruralist" has, no doubt, adopted an excellent plan for preserving the sweet potato during winter. We have kept them in small quantities, for seed, by packing them in sand in a barrel, and placing the barrel in a dry cellar. The per cent age in loss has been little or nothing. The plan of "Ruralist" will enable us to keep them in large quantity for family use, as well as for seed. But, Ruralist, why did you not "catch the hare before cooking it?" in other words, why did you not tell our readers how to grow sweet potatoes before telling them how to preserve them. Can you not do so yet? - Ed].