The goal of Celebrate Sweet Potatoes - Lawrence, KS, is to promote sweet potato consumption and to let people know of its nutritional value, versatility in cooking, historical value to this community, and ease of growing in your garden.

Sweet potatoes produce more pounds of food per acre than any other cultivated plant, including corn and the Irish potato. More nourishing than Irish potatoes because they contain more sugars and fats, they are a universal food as they can be baked, candied, boiled, and even fried.


Sweet Potato Festival

Master Food Volunteers and the Master Gardeners will be teaming up to do some sweet potato education at the Farmer's Market on Saturday, October 25 from 8-10am.

Community Sweet Potato Potluck

November 8, 2014 - 6:00 PM
Located at the Carnagie Building. Bring your favorite sweet potato dishes. Prizes will be awarded.

Tuber Tuesdays

Local restaurants that specialize in using local food from local farms will create sweet potato dishes that will be featured every Tuesday in October. We ask that patrons comment on their facebook and twitter accounts.

Participating Restaurants:

Free State Brewery
636 Massachusetts St.
Lawrence, KS 66044
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La Parilla
724 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
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Merchants Pub & Plate
745 Massachusetts St.
Lawrence, KS 66044
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Limestone Pizza Kitchen Bar
814 Massachusetts St.
Lawrence, KS 66044
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800 New Hampshire St.
Lawrence, KS 66044
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945 Massachusetts St.
Lawrence, KS 66044
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Sandbar Subs
745 New Hampshire St.
Lawrence, KS 66044
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Wheatfields Bakery
904 Vermont Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
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941 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
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Global Cafe
820 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
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Ladybird Diner
721 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
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Cooking Classes

Community Mercantile
Thursday, October 9, 7-9pm
Let's cook with sweet potatoes, the super food
taught by Karen Duggan
Orange fleshed sweet potatoes are one of nature’s superfoods. They are Karen’s favorite locally grown food to cook and eat for vibrant health in the fall and winter. Come and learn simple ways of preparation and nutrition tips for eating well with Nutrition Coach Karen Duggan. Delight your taste buds and learn to prepare: Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes; Chicken Pot Pie over Smashed Sweet Potatoes; Red Leaf Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes; and to end this great seasonal meal - Sweet Potato Pudding. Gluten Free
$18 per person, preregistration required, register at the Merc or online at

Just Food
Cooking with Sweet Potatoes!
Wednesday, October 8, 5:30 to 7:30, Douglas County 4H Fairgrounds in the Dreher Building, taught by Jahmal Clemens
Tuesday, October 28, 5:30 to 7:30, Just Food, 1000 E 11th Street, taught by Linda Bush
Thursday, October 30, 5:30 to 7:30, Just Food, 1000 E. 11th Street, taught by Hillary Kass
For availability in these classes, contact
Cindy L. Belot
Program Director, Just Cook cooking classes
Just Food
1000 E. 11th Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
P: 785.856.7030 (Ex:7014)


How to grow sweet potatoes

Although the terms sweet potatoes and yams are used interchangeably in the U.S., they are two entirely different vegetables. They are also unrelated to regular potatoes. Sweet potatoes are in the same family as Morning Glories (Ipomoea tricolor) and you’ll easily see the similarity in leaves to the sweet potato vines we now grow as ornamentals. Although sweet potatoes require 4 months of warm temperatures to develop full size tubers, they are surprisingly easy to grow.

Sweet potatoes should not be confused with yams, another starchy root commonly grown in Western Africa. Yams are indeed larger in size that can grow up to 120 pounds in weight and 2 meters in length. Yams are the tropical crops and never grow where the temperature dips below 68 degrees F.

Important differentiating features that distinguish sweet potatoes from yams are:

Sweet Potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are dicotyledonous, relatively smaller and possess very thin peel.

Yams are monocotyledons, larger, features thick, rough, dark brown to pink skin depending on the cultivar type.

Sweet potato leaves (top greens) are also edible. In fact, the greens contain more nutrients and dietary fiber than some of the green-leafy vegetables.


Full sun to partial shade. They generally prefer full sun, but can be grown successfully with partial shade in hot and dry areas. Harvest roots in 4 months. Harvest leaves throughout season.


Sweet potatoes are the tuberous roots of vining plants. These vines root wherever they touch the ground and can produce a generous harvest.
The orange fleshed sweet potatoes are the most familiar, but sweet potatoes can be white, yellow, and even purple.

Common Varieties Grown by Douglas County Farms

Pale reddish skin with dark orange flesh. Popular commercial variety. (100 days)

Georgia Jet
Reddish skin with orange flesh. Good choice for shorter seasons. (90 days)

White skin and white flesh . Great for people who want their sweet potatoes to look and taste more like Irish potatoes. (100 days)

Purple skin and white flesh. Smooth, brilliant purple skins and tender, dry, nutty flavored creamy white flesh. A favorite variety in Japan! (90-110 days)


You can dig your tubers once the foilage starts to yellow. If the foilage is hit by a frost, the tubers are probably still fine. Just don’t let them sit in the ground too long after the tops die back. Be gentle when digging. Sweet potato tubers grow close to the surface. Their skins are tender and can be damaged and bruised easily.

Growing Tips

Sweet potatoes like a slightly acid soil, preferring a soil pH between 5.0 and 6.5

What to Plant
Sweet potatoes are usually grown from slips; small rooted pieces of tuber. You can create your own slips by slicing a sweet potato in half lengthwise and placing it on a bed of damp potting soil. Cover the pieces with a few inches of soil and keep moist and warm. Small roots should develop within a few days, followed by leaves. They are ready to be lifted and planted once they’re about 4-8 inches tall. (About 6 weeks.) You can try growing sweet potatoes from the grocery store, but the only way to be certain you have certified disease-free roots is to buy them from a reputable seed supplier.

When to Plant (Transplanting)
Plant sweet potato slips as soon as the ground has warmed and all danger of frost has passed. To give them a head start, sweet potatoes are often planted in raised rows, about 8” high. This helps the soil warm faster and keeps them well drained.

Space plants about 12 - 18” apart with 3 - 4’ between rows. The vines will spread and fill in, so give them plenty of room.

Feeding sweet potatoes tends to produce just foliage. Plant in a soil high in organic matter and then leave them alone.

Don’t water your sweet potatoes during the final 3-4 weeks prior to harvest, to keep the mature tubers from splitting.


Sweet potatoes can be slow starters and they don’t like to compete with weeds. Keep the area clear until the top growth fills in and acts as a natural mulch. Sweet potatoes can tolerate periods of drought, but regular watering is the best way to prevent splitting.

Pests & Problems

Wireworms and root-knot nematodes are the biggest problems in home gardens. Damage is lessened if you rotate your crop each year. Many diseases can be avoided by choosing disease resistant varieties and using certified disease free seed sweet potatoes. Rotating their location in the garden, from year to year, also helps. Mice and voles can also be a problem, so be on the lookout.


Sweet Potato Nutritional Information

Sweet potato, not only is just sweet to your taste buds, but also good for your cardiovascular health! It is an edible, underground tuber initially cultivated in the Central American region. This starchy root vegetable is a rich source of flavonoid anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber that are essential for optimal health.

Sweet potato is one of the high-calorie starch foods, contains no saturated fats or cholesterol, and is a rich source of dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

It’s calorie content mainly comes from starch, a complex carbohydrate. Sweet potato has higher amylose to the amylopectin ratio than that in potato. Amylose raises the blood sugar levels rather slowly in comparison to simple fruit sugars (fructose, glucose, etc) and therefore, recommended as a healthy food supplement even in diabetes.

The tuber is an excellent source of flavonoid phenolic compounds such as beta-carotene and vitamin-a. 100g tuber provides 14,187 IU of vitamin-a and 8,509 µg of ß-carotene, a value which is the highest for any root-vegetable category. These compounds are powerful natural antioxidants. Vitamin A is also required by the body to maintain integrity of healthy mucus membranes and skin. It is a vital nutrient for healthy vision. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

The total antioxidant strength of raw sweet potato measured in terms of oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) is 902 µmol TE/100g.

The tubers are packed with many essential vitamins, such as pantothenic acid (vitamin b-5), pyridoxine (vitamin b-6), thiamin (vitamin b-1), niacin, and riboflavin. These vitamins are essential in the sense that the human body requires them from external sources to replenish. These vitamins function as co-factors for various enzymes during metabolism.

Sweet potato provides a good amount of vital minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium that are very essential for encyme, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism.

Sweet potato leaves are indeed more nutritious than the tuber itself. Weight for weight, 100g of fresh leaves contain more iron, vitamin c, folates, vitamin k, and potassium, but less sodium than its tuber.


History of Sweet Potatoes in Kansas

The sweet potato is one of the oldest cultivated vegetables known to humans. Scientists believe that it was domesticated thousands of years ago in Central America, and eventually transported to Europe by Christopher Columbus. By the late sixteenth century, sweet potatoes had been introduced into China, and during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the crop spread through Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Kansas has historically produced a substantial quantity of sweet potatoes. In 1860, Kansas Territory reported producing 9,965 bushels, which may seem like small potatoes compared with the 296,335 bushels of Irish potatoes grown that year. By 1870, the harvest had grown to 49,533 bushels, an almost five-fold increase. The 1880 harvest was reported in acres, not bushels, so comparison is difficult. There were 4,021 acres of sweet potatoes harvested that year, and in 1908 there were 4,818 acres. The sweet potato did not rival corn or Irish potatoes as a crop in most parts of the state, but was a significant part of the farm economy.

Lawrence has a long history of producing sweet potatoes. Early settlers on the farms surrounding the town planted sweet potatoes as part of a diverse crop system that included Irish potatoes, corn, wheat, rye, oats, flax, and millet. Charles Langston, the grandfather of writer Langston Hughes, grew sweet potatoes (along with other crops) on his farm on the southern edge of the oxbow lake formed by the Kansas River (now Lakeview).

More recently, the Pine family in North Lawrence has grown sweet potatoes to eat and sell, and produced plants, called slips, for sale. The slips were (and still are) started in a bed of sand in a protected place, either outside or in a greenhouse. Sweet potatoes are buried in warm sand and kept moist. As they sprout, the slips are broken off to plant. Sweet potatoes grow well in hot summers and thrive in the sandy soil of North Lawrence.

Marvin, Jimmie and Howard Pine making the sweet potato sprouting bed in the 1950's

A ribbon for sweet potatoes won at the Douglas County Fair by Howard Pine when he was a teenager

Howard and Leta Pine laying sweet potatoes in a bed to sprout

A Douglas County Fair display from the first half of the 20th century, featuring squash and root crops, including sweet potatoes

Kansas Sweet Potato Association

The Kansas Sweet Potato Association was initiated by a group of growers in the Kansas River Valley. Its first organizational meeting was in May 1939 at Lawrence. A Constitution and Byu-Laws were adopted in November 1939, for the Kaw Valley Sweet Potato Growers Association. The constitution provided that all members also be members of the Kansas State Horticultural Society and that the organization promote the sweet potato industry in Kansas. Its members consist of sweet potato growers and persons engaged in other phases of sweet potato production and marketing. Sweet potato growers from other sections of Kansas joined the Association, so its name was changed to Kansas Sweet Potato Association at the annual meeting in February, 1946.

The Kansas Sweet Potato Association was in affiliation in 1963 with the Sweet Potato Council of the United States, a national organization active in promoting and marketing sweet potatoes.

The association developed and copyrighted a “Sunflower Brand” for Kansas-grown sweet potatoes and established rules for its use.