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Indoor Greens: The Edible Sweet Potato Vine for a Winter Harvest

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The sweet potato vine is an unexpected bonus when you’re growing sweet potatoes — sweet potato leaves are edible! And even if you don’t plan to grow them in your garden, sweet potato greens can be grown inside as an edible houseplant.

green sweet potato vine on a white board table

Even if you don’t plan to grow sweet potato tubers in your garden, the leaves can be a valuable source of nutrition, especially during the cold months of winter. They sprout easily indoors and a happy sweet potato plant will produce leaves throughout the winter. Bonus? If you have a plant growing for the sweet potato leaves, you’ll have slips at the ready for planting in the garden!

Grow an edible sweet potato vine by sprouting

You might remember doing this in school. It’s still just as easy. Choose an organic sweet potato at the store (non-organic potatoes are often treated with a chemical to prevent sprouting).

Insert several toothpicks around the center of the spud. Set the sweet potato inside a jar filled with water. The bottom of the potato should remain in water. It will start sending out roots in a couple of weeks. Once there are a fair number of roots, watch for green sprouts emerging from the dry side of the potato.

Those are the sweet potato leaves. They can also be used to generate sweet potato plants. (They’re often called ‘slips’ in garden-ese.) While you can use the leaves directly from a sweet potato sprouted in water, it won’t produce as long as a plant potted in soil will.

Related: Roasted Root Vegetables with Kale: Fresh from the Garden Dinner

sweet potato leaves growing

Related: Growing Sweet Potatoes for a High-Calorie Harvest

How to grow a sweet potato vine in a pot

To grow an edible sweet potato vine in a pot, you can transplant your sprouted sweet potato (see video) or create a number of potted plants by starting with slips. To grow from slips, cut 10″ to 12″ lengths of sweet potato vine from your “seed” potato. Trim leaves from the lower portion of the slip, leaving a couple of leaves at the tip for photosynthesis.

You can either plant these directly into a pot of soil or allow them to root in water first. If you plant directly into the soil, you’ll need to maintain steady moisture. If you choose to root them in water, watch for the emerging roots. Once they’re a few inches long, transplant into a container of good soil in bunches of three. This method can be used for a winter crop of greens, but it’s essentially how they should be planted out in your garden for a root crop, too.

Set your potted sweet potato by a sunny, warm window and it will produce plenty of vines. Now you have an edible houseplant! You can eat the leaves cooked or raw.

Sweet potato leaves in the kitchen

As an ingredient, sweet potato greens are a bit obscure. It’s not something you see in many recipes, but there are a few out there!

Important:

Don’t confuse sweet potatoes with your standard baked potato!

  • Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) belong to the Convolvulaceae family. Their leaves are edible.
  • Regular Russet-type potatoes belong to the Solanaceae, or nightshade, family. Their leaves are not edible and can make you sick.

Originally published March, 2014. Updated September 2018.

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

25 comments… add one
  • Missy Homemaker Mar 19, 2014, 11:26 am

    I’m really excited to read this! We’re always looking for new things to eat and new ways to provide. Thank you for the info!

  • Sandra bigtree Mar 22, 2014, 5:43 am

    Is this the same for yams? I cannot tell them apart.

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 22, 2014, 8:31 am

      That’s a good question! Yams and sweet potatoes are different plants, but we often interchange the names.

      Here’s this: https://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/sweetpotato.html

      And I found this: https://www.eattheweeds.com/yam-a-the-alata/

      • Lester Martin Jr. Nov 4, 2018, 5:46 pm

        I read an article about one gardener who had a Japanese neighbor who was always asking him if he could pick the young leaves from his sweet potato vines, the Japanese man assured him it wouldn’t harm the plants . He asked the Japanese man what he used them for and he replied stir-frying them . One day the Japanese neighbor picked some leaves and invited his neighbor over for dinner where he had a chance to sample them, he said they were very delicious and started using them in the same manner . When it came time to harvest the sweet potatoes he said he had a bumper crop of them, he guessed it was due to pruning the vines .

        • Kris Bordessa Nov 4, 2018, 6:04 pm

          Interesting — I’ll have to pay attention to the size of the tubers if I’ve been harvesting the leaves!

  • Coffee to Compost Mar 24, 2014, 4:57 pm

    We loved eating sweet potato leaves last summer. I sauteed some minced garlic in olive oil, added the leaves, then sprinkled with kosher salt once they were wilted. They’re now one of my favorite greens!

  • JoAnne Dec 28, 2014, 7:03 am

    My mother would put a sweet potato partially in water and it would sprout a vine. She used it as an ornamental plant in the house. Do you think this would work as well? I have not read your links yet for growing.

    • Kris Bordessa Dec 28, 2014, 7:53 am

      Yes, but it won’t last as long that way as in soil.

  • Almas.Nathoo Feb 18, 2016, 10:51 am

    Hi,
    I have sweet potatoe in glass jar in water. It is already one month but nothing is coming out of the tuber. It is near window whereby sun shine everyday. Please can you let me know how long it takes to grow. Last year I had some luck and then I plants the tuber out in the garden but the rabbits ate all the leaves so the plant dyed.
    thanks
    almas

    • Kris Bordessa Feb 18, 2016, 2:56 pm

      My first question is this: Was the sweet potato organic? Sometimes they’re treated with a chemical to prevent sprouting. I would think that you’d have sprouts at least starting to emerge after this much time.

    • Ker Feb 10, 2019, 8:01 pm

      Mine is organic from sprouts market, and it took almost 2 months. Now it’s really growing each day

    • Rachel C. Oct 9, 2019, 3:22 am

      Giving this a try before I harvest my tubers!

  • Traveler in Thyme Jan 5, 2017, 8:28 am

    slice sweet potatoes, rub them with butter, grill on the fire. My family can eat a whole griddle full in minutes, but they are good, cold, in lunch boxes, too. My husband made a sandwich with a mini-burger in between 2 slices of yam, it was yummy.

  • Sheryl Jan 6, 2017, 4:03 pm

    Something that I didn’t know but am so will to try but my question is….what do they actually taste like? Should they be sauted or steamed, like swiss chard or spinach?

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 7, 2017, 1:11 pm

      They’re actually pretty mild. They have kind of a light fragrant flavor at first bite (raw), but then just taste like…greens. (That’s so hard to explain!)

  • Joy Sep 18, 2017, 7:22 pm

    Are the younger softer leaves and stems preferable for consumption than the tougher older larger leaves and stems?

    Thanks so much!!

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 14, 2017, 8:26 am

      They’re all edible, but the younger ones will be more tender.

  • Annie Sep 3, 2018, 5:31 am

    Can the potatoes still grow if you eat the leaves? And how much /when can you eat them and still have the tubers grow?

    • Kris Bordessa Sep 7, 2018, 7:34 am

      They will grow some, but they do need some leaves. If I had to wager a guess, I’d say you could safely remove 1/3 of the leaves without impacting the growth of the tuber. But that’s just a guess.

  • Mary Lemieux Sep 24, 2018, 4:44 am

    I feed my dogs natural food. I have all the sweet potato leaves and vines from my sweet potato beds saved. It appears the leaves are edible for dogs and humans and, in fact, very good for you. I would assume the vine would be edible too , but can’t find any info. on it. All the online info. relates to the decorative sweet potato vine only. Are there any dangers to it?

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 17, 2018, 9:42 am

      You mean the stem between the leaves? That should be edible, too, yes.

  • Jim Nov 4, 2018, 10:06 pm

    Sweer potato leaves are called kamote in the Phillipines. My favorite is using it in sinigang which is like a pork soup. Growing up I used to pour it over my rice.

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 7, 2018, 12:01 pm

      Kamote — I’ve learned something new!

      • Orlando Aug 19, 2019, 10:05 am

        Kamote tops we call it, in the Philippines.

        • Kris Bordessa Aug 23, 2019, 2:36 pm

          Love hearing regional names of plants!

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