Purple is the color of royalty and “Purple Majesty” and “Purple Splendor” are two newly released varieties of sweet potato bred by Drs. Craig Yencho and Kenneth Pecota at North Carolina State University. This same program is responsible for “Covington” which is the typical orange-flesh variety that you find on most grocery store shelves. “Covington” was released in 2005 and has been adopted as the consumer’s choice because of its moist texture, shelf-life and uniform size. Farmers also enjoy the advantages of growing “Covington” because of its pest tolerance, wet tolerance in rainy weather and superior harvest yields.
The two newly released purple sweet potato varieties (“Majesty” and “Splendor”) have drawn much attention because of the vibrant, purple-flesh that will pair with any dish. Danny Johns with Blue Sky Farms has grown a few different varieties of sweet potatoes over the last five years on fields adjacent to his main barn (Elkton, St. Johns County) and more recently on his fields at Federal Point (East Palatka, Putnam County). As a result of our Sweet Potato Seed-It Grant Project funded by both UF Research and Extension, our team partnered with the breeders from NC State and grew these varieties at three research stations in Florida even before they were released commercially. We had superior harvest yield results with both these varieties and observed tolerance to (i.e. no damage from) both sweet potato weevil and wireworm, when compared to other varieties in the trial. The nutritional benefits are impressive as they contain a nice blend of anthocyanins, beta-carotene, calcium, potassium and Vitamin C. They are also a great source of protein and starch the energize your workout and minimal total sugars. Following the research trial, Blue Sky Farms partnered with Dr. Yencho to secure clean slips, i.e. plant cuttings, for both varieties to further expand the acreage of sweet potato in Northeast Florida.
Blue Sky Farms conducted their harvesting activities in October and November (2023), just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. This one-minute video is taken from the sweet potato field during harvest and it shows a two-row mechanical harvester that has been retrofitted so that sorting and grading can be accomplished in the field. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pV5h0BqKZBk Farmers are brilliant!
Anyone interested in purchasing purple sweet potatoes to add color to your Thanksgiving meal can reach out directly to Blue Sky Farms at 904-692-5938 until supplies last. Our third annual purple sweet potato pie contest will be held at Azalea City Brewery on Sunday, November 26, 2023, from 3:00 to 5:00PM. If you want to try your hand at creating your very own masterpiece then you should swing by the brewery the week before to get signed up and pick up your 2-lb bag of sweet potatoes that were graciously donated by Blue Sky Farms. Bags are limited (50 total) so get there soon if you want to enter as a participant. Otherwise, join us on the 26th for the sweet potato pie feast.