Sweet Potato

Scientific Name(s): Ipomoea batatas
Abundance: common
What: leaves, tubers
How: Leaves raw, boiled then sautéed; tubers boiled, roasted
Where: landscaping
When: summer, fall
Nutritional Value: calories, fiber, protein, vitamins C,B6, riboflavin, thiamin and niacin, minerals K, P, Ca, Mg, Fe, Mn, and Cu

Leaf Arrangement: Leaves are alternately arranged along the stems.

Leaf Shape: Leaves are variable, ranging from heart-shaped to palmately lobed or entire, typically measuring 2 to 6 inches in width and length.

Leaf Venation: Venation is palmate, with a multiple veins running from base of leaf out to its edges and lobe tips. 

Leaf Margin: Margins can be entire, lobed, or wavy, depending on the variety.

Leaf Color: Ranges from green to purple or reddish, sometimes variegated.

Flower Structure: Flowers are funnel-shaped, borne on short stalks, and typically 1.5 to 3 inches in diameter.

Flower Color: Usually pink, purple, or white.

Fruit: Produces a capsule containing 4 black seeds.

Seed: Seeds are small, black, and angular, about 0.1 inches in diameter.

Stem: Stems are long, slender, and vining, often rooting at the nodes.

Hairs: Stems and leaves can be smooth or sparsely hairy.

Height: The plant is generally sprawling, with vines extending several feet in length.

Sweet Potato vine.
Sweet Potato

Close-up of Sweet Potato leaves.
Sweet Potato

Sweet Potato tubers.
Sweet Potato

Sweet Potato

Sweet Potato tuber cut open, note they are not orange.
Sweet Potato

Purple Sweet Potato vines are the most nutritious of the different varieties.
Sweet Potato
Picture contributed by Eric Cee of SPEAR Survival.

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Few plants seem to thrive in the Texas summer heat like Sweet Potatoes. There prolific, yellow-green vines explode in late June and on until cold fall weather (if any) appears. In a sheltered spot they can ever survive all year long in Houston and locations farther south. This durability, low water requirements, and resistance to the sun's burning rays make them an extremely popular, low-cost landscaping plant...resulting in highly nutritious food all over the place!

While the young, tender leaves can be eaten raw in salads and on sandwiches, most people prefer to make them more tender with a quick boil, followed by sautéing them in butter with onions, garlic, or other herbs. Think of the leaves as another spinach substitute, though Sweet Potato leaves don't shrink up nearly as much as spinach.

The tubers of decorative Sweet Potatoes lack the huge quantity of vitamin A (and its resultant orange color) found in Sweet Potatoes raised specifically as food. The fluctuations in available water cause these pale, though mineral and calorie rich, tubers to grow in spurts, usually resulting in cracked surfaces. While these fissures make cleaning and peeling the tubers somewhat difficult, they don't affect the flavor. Note though, the flavor will be somewhat "rougher" and less sweet than the Sweet Potatoes you are used to.

The number of tubers per plant is much less than one normally finds with the food crop version but considering how many plants there are of this, if one falls the fall landscaping crew digging up these vines and replacing them with winter plants, you easily gather your fill! Also note, like regular potatoes, these tubers can be used to make alcohol. Woohoo!

Buy my book! Outdoor Adventure Guides Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.

Privacy & Amazon Paid Promotion Statement

I use third-party advertising companies to serve ads when you visit this website. These companies may use information (not including your name, address, email address, or telephone number) about your visits to this and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used by these companies, click here.

I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. The prices you pay for the item isn't affected, my sales commission comes out of Amazon's pocket.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.