The first crop of UK-grown sweet potatoes has been harvested for supermarket Asda by Watts Farms at Hill Farm in Farningham, Kent.
Joe Cottingham, Watts Farms’ group director told The Guardian, “We have been successful in growing sweet potatoes outdoors in Kent because of careful variety trial work and selection for frost resistance, which the crop is susceptible to,” Cottingham explained. “They are grown in light soils through a mulch which allows us to get warmer soil temperatures which produce good-sized potatoes. We give the potatoes all the water they need through drippers underneath the mulch which takes them from small plants to much larger plants bearing fruit in five months.”
The company grows and packs more than 60 types of produce, including herbs and chillies, from 10 farms in Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Kent and Essex. “Sweet potatoes have been a challenge but we have finally got there after experimenting with a number of different varieties,” added Cottingham.
A white Caribbean sweet potato was rejected as “too sweet” before the company focused its efforts on a hardy red-skinned, orange-fleshed variety. “We are hugely proud to be delivering this UK first… Sweet potatoes are now a UK dinner table favourite, and these taste and look exactly the same as those grown overseas, so to have them from home soil is a great feat for us!” he concluded.