Is Sweet Potato a Vegetable or a Fruit? – Complete Guide

Everybody loves roasted sweet potatoes, but everybody doesn’t know what are these tasty things. Are they vegetables or fruits or something else?

Sweet potatoes, also known as Ipomoea batatas in scientific terms, are root vegetables that are grown under the ground. Sweet potatoes are sweet but they are not a fruit but a vegetable. These starchy roots grow similarly to normal potatoes. The leaves and stems of the sweet potatoes are also edible.

Let’s now take a look at why sweet potatoes are described as a vegetable and not fruit in detail:

What is fruit

Fruit is a part of the plant which grows from the ripened ovary of the flower and turns to fruit. Fruits usually have a sweet taste and pulpy nature but sometimes are sour or bland like Eggplant. 

In scientific ways, fruit is a product after the fertilization process of the flower and grows from it but sometimes it can be grown without the fertilization process. An example of fruit growing without a fertilization process is Banana which doesn’t need fertilization.

The purpose of the fruit is mainly to protect the seeds in it with the help of a pulpy or flesh outer shell which is sweet but we used these fruits as a resource for food and energy. Some fruits contain one large seed and some contain multiple seeds. Some seeds are edible just like in bananas or grapes and some are inedible like in mango or apple.

What is a vegetable

A vegetable is a very good resource of energy for humans as well as animals as it is low in fat and carbohydrates and rich in minerals, vitamins, and fibers. It is any part of the plant which is not grown from the ovary and flower and can be a root, stem, or leaves and is usually eaten as cooked food with other vegetables. Some examples of vegetables are potatoes, onion, and ginger.

Vegetables can be eaten raw or cooked and can be mixed with different spices and vegetables as well as eaten individually just like a boiled potato.

Difference between fruit and vegetable

The main difference between a fruit and a vegetable is that fruit only grows from the ripened ovary of the flower of the plant but vegetables can be any part of the plant like roots, stems, leaves except the product of the flower.

 Fruits also contain one or more than one seed in them but vegetables don’t have any seeds in them. The taste of the fruits and vegetables is also different as fruits are sweet or sour but vegetables usually have a bland or sour taste.

The texture of fruit or vegetable also has a difference as fruits usually have a pulpy or flesh texture whereas vegetables are very solid or hard textures.

What is sweet potato?

Sweet potato scientifically known as Ipomoea batatas is a part of the morning glory family and was natively grown in tropical America. Sweet potato usually grows in tropical to temperate areas and now it is widely grown in South America, Japan, and Russia. The roots are the main part of the plant which is used as food. The fleshy roots can be cooked as a whole or usually served as mashed form. The root also contains a lot of starch and other chemicals which are used in making drinks as well.

Physical description

The main part of the sweet potato plant is the root but other than that it has long stems trailing and bearing leaves. The leaves are of very different shapes and sizes as well. The main part of the roots are edible and grows in various sizes from oblong to oval-shaped and varies in colors from white to orange to sometimes violet in color. 

Stems of the sweet potato plants are usually vinyl and long, trailing on the sides or upwards if provided some support. Some species of sweet potatoes have strong stems which aren’t vinyl. The plant also has pink to violet flowers which are usually found in clusters. 

The main part of the sweet potato, the pulp, consists of starch and carotene. The plant is largely produced with the help of slips or reproducing the vines or stem clippings. The usual time it takes to grow sweet potato is around 5 to 6 months.

Sweet potato family

Sweet potato comes from the family of Convolvulaceae. The sweet potato is a dicotyledonous plant that comes from the genus Ipomoea of the order Solanales. 

Is a sweet potato a vegetable

Yes, sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a vegetable. It is a root vegetable because the main edible part of the plant is the root itself. The sweet potato we eat is a modified enlarged root called a root-tuber. The root contains starch which is widely used for different purposes around the world. 

Is a sweet potato a fruit

No, sweet potato is not a fruit as it doesn’t grow from a flower nor does it contain any seeds in it, which are the specifications of a fruit. The sweet potato is a tuber root that grows under the ground which makes it a vegetable or more specifically a root vegetable.

Is a sweet potato a root or stem

The sweet potato is a root and not a stem. The sweet potato comes from the species of Ipomoea batatas from the family of morning glory Convolvulaceae. The roots are edible and the main part of the whole plant. The roots are true roots just like carrots or beets. The color of the roots is typically orange and sometimes can be white. 

is a sweet potato a vegetable or starch

Sweet potato is a vegetable and not starch and contains a lot of starch. Sweet potatoes or potatoes are grown to extract starch from them and use it for other things.

How to grow sweet potato

Sweet potatoes are grown with the help of slips and not by the seeds like other vegetables. Let’s see how you grow the sweet potato from scratch.

Step 1: Start the Slips

There are two ways to start growing sweet potatoes in your garden. The first way is to order the slips is from the Garden store or online. The second way is to grow the slips from scratch in your house. Growing your slips by yourself is a little technical and takes effort compared to just buying slips and putting them into the soil. 

To start the slips, you need to have mature sweet potatoes. Wash the sweet potatoes and cut them in half or small sections. Put these sweet potatoes in the water with half of the potato in water and a half above. You can use toothpicks to support the potato to stay above the water.

Keep the slips in a warm place to promote fast growth of the slips. In a few weeks, your potatoes will be covered with a lot of slips or sprouts which you can now take out and plant in your garden.

Step 2: Root the Slips

After the sweet potatoes have sprouted, take out the sprouted part from the sweet potato by carefully twisting it off to make a plantable slip. 

Lay each sprout in a bowl filled with half water with half of the stems submerged into the water and the upper part with leaves out of the water.

Change the water every day to keep the slips healthy and grow faster and remove any slip that is not making roots or rotting. 

After a few days the roots will emerge from the bottom of the stem and after a few more days the slips will be ready to plant when the roots are an inch long.

Step 3: Prepare the Soil for the Slips

For planting the slips, you need to first prepare the perfect soil for the plants to grow. Sweet potatoes need loose, well-drained soil to form large tubers. If the soil is hard and compacted, it will block the growth of the roots and the sweet potatoes as they will face resistance from the soil. Make sure the soil is loose and healthy with lots of minerals in it to help promote the healthy growth of the plant. 

Step 4: Plant the Slips

Planting the slips is an easy task. Make a deep hole in the soil with a finger or with a stick and bury half of the slip into the soil making sure that the leaves are above the ground and the roots are positioned downwards. Put some soil on the side of the plant to give some support to the slip.

Space is also critical when planting the slips as sweet potatoes spread and cover a large area from a single slip. It is recommended to plant the slips at least 12 to 18 inches apart from each other on every side.

Step 5: Water, Water, Water

Watering the plant for the initial days is very crucial as new plants need frequent watering to establish themselves in the soil. After planting the slips soak the surroundings with water.

 After a week of continuous watering, reduce the frequency of the watering to every alternate day and then slowly reduce the frequency of watering every week until you are watering once a week.

You need to adjust the watering schedule according to the weather, if you get heavy rain then you need to. To skip watering accordingly and at the same time increase the frequency of watering on hot days. 

Step 6: Harvest

Home-grown sweet potatoes usually take around 150 to 180 days to mature and are fully ready to harvest from the garden. Be careful not to damage the sweet potatoes when harvesting as a little cut or damage can cause spoilage.

When harvesting, softly remove the dirt from the side of the plant and slowly pull out the potatoes. Avoid using a sharp tool to harvest potatoes.

Hope now you know what sweet potato is and why. Sweet potato is a vegetable and not a fruit.