Sweet potato houses cheap and profitable

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Although potato houses were well known in the states of Delaware, Maine and Maryland in the early twentieth century, even in 1940 the Bossier Banner was encouraging local farmers to construct them for harvested sweet potatoes in Bossier Parish.  In its July 11, 1940 issue the importance of safely storing sweet potatoes was emphasized.

“Sweet potato growers in Bossier Parish are advised that the Louisiana crop of potatoes may be shorter than usual this year and they should plan now to care [for] their potatoes, asserts Jow W. Rhodes Farm agent.”

“The best way to store potatoes is in a substantial house especially built for this purpose, points out Rhodes.  Such a house can be built at a moderate cost.”

“By using farm materials such as poles or logs and home-made shingles, many farm-type storage houses have been built at cash outlays ranging from practically nothing to $16 or $20 each.  If some existing building is available, it is usually possible to alter it so as to make it suitable for storage.”

“’A sweet potato storage house on practically every farm in Bossier Parish is one of our present needs,’ says Rhodes.  Now that the field crops are laid by, why not plan to build or remodel a storage house to properly take care of this valuable food and feed?   If you have a storage house, now is the time to clean it out and disinfect it and the used crates.  A good disinfectant is a solution of one pint of commercial formaldehyde and 30 gallons of water.”

“An inexpensive and properly build storage house will store sweet potatoes from October to June.  During the late spring and summer, the empty crates and storage space may be used for storing Katahdin Irish potatoes and Creole onions, if additional ventilation is provided.  We can supply you, free of cost, with blueprint plans and also the latest recommendations on handling, curing and storing sweet potatoes.  Drop us a card or call at our office for more detailed information.”

Today the LSU Ag Center recommends curing the potatoes first for 5 to 10 days at a  temperature of 80-85 degrees and a relative humidity of 80 to 90 percent.  Then the roots should be stored at 55-60 degrees for 6-8 weeks where they may last for several months or more, depending on the storage environment.

While most potato houses today have been demolished or have been converted  to other uses, a few that have survived have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

To learn more about agricultural practices in Bossier Parish visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.

Ann Middleton is Director of the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center. She can be reached at (318) 746-7717 or by e-mail at amiddlet@state.lib.la.us