Students accidentally produce what is believed to be biggest sweet potato grown in SC

Nurse Carolyn Hendrix holds the massive sweet potato, with the Carlisle-Foster’s Grove Elementary’s Green Team club.
Nurse Carolyn Hendrix holds the massive sweet potato, with the Carlisle-Foster’s Grove Elementary’s Green Team club.

A possibly record-setting sweet potato – just shy of 13 pounds – has been harvested by a group of elementary school students in Spartanburg County, South Carolina.

It was an accident.

School nurse Carolyn Hendrix said this is the first year Carlisle-Foster’s Grove Elementary had a school garden, created by a student club called the Green Team. Their goals did not include setting a state record, she said, but that is apparently the case with their sweet potato. It weighs 12 pounds, 45 ounces, which she likens to a “heavy baby.”

Now, she’s wondering what other monsters await them in the garden.

“I went out to the garden to check the sweet potatoes and I noticed what looked like a small cantaloupe sticking up out of the ground, which was odd,” recalled Hendrix. “I started digging … and digging … and digging. Out came a sweet potato. It took five minutes to get it out of the ground.”

Some people don’t believe it’s a sweet potato, she said.

“I keep getting asked where it came from,” she said, as if some suspect another planet produced the potato.

She contacted the Clemson University County Extension and it sent out agent Andy Rollins to confirm the weight. “Really it is amazing,” Rollins told FoxCarolina this week. “It’s really incredible to have that size of a potato.”

South Carolina does not keep official records on sweet potatoes, but he could not find any evidence of one that big ever being grown in the state.

Proud as Hendrix is, she said it’s a mystery to her why the garden produced a big potato. Soil, sun and water are all key ingredients in any garden. The only thing they did differently was to first let the vegetables sprout in recycled milk and juice cartons before they were put in the ground.

Maybe it was the cartons, which came from the school’s cafeteria.

The obvious question now: What’s going to happen to the sweet potato? It’s currently on display in the school library, but a contest is being planned, Hendrix said. Each class in the school is going to guess how many sweet potato pies a 12 pound potato will make. The cooks in the school cafeteria have agreed to make the pies, Hendrix said.

“I’m not sure what the winner gets. I’m not that far along,” says Hendrix. “Maybe they get to eat the pies.”

The world’s largest sweet potato was grown in Spain in 2004 and weighed 81 pounds, 9 ounces, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

It’s unclear what happened to that potato.