Early Greens: Sweet Potato Leaves 13

I’ve written about starting sweet potato slips to plant in the garden. But did you know that sweet potato leaves themselves are edible? Even if you don’t plan to grow sweet potato tubers in your garden, the leaves can be a valuable source of nutrition 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 its leaves, you’ll have sweet potato slips at the ready for planting in the garden!

Sweet potato leaves are easy to sprout and grow indoors during the winter months. Use them in stews, salads, and stir fry dishes for a healthy meal.

Sprout a sweet potato

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 sprouts are edible. 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 sprouted sweet potato, it won’t produce as long as a plant potted in soil.

Plant a potato

To grow a sweet potato plant 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 leaves are a bit obscure. It’s not something


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.

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13 thoughts on “Early Greens: Sweet Potato Leaves

  • Missy Homemaker

    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

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

  • Coffee to Compost

    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

    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 Post author

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

  • Almas.Nathoo

    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.

    • Kris Bordessa Post author

      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.

  • Traveler in Thyme

    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

    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 Post author

      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!)