Appalachia Appalachian Dialect Sayings from Appalachia

Appalachian Sayings – All Vines And No Taters


all vines and no taters

all vines an’ no taters
Used to describe something or someone very showy but of no substance. “He’ll never amount to nothin’. He’s all vines and no taters.” Probably was suggested by sweet potatoes, which produce a lot of vines and, if grown incorrectly can yield few sweet potatoes.

Mountain Range A Dictionary of Expressions from Appalachia to the Ozarks written by Robert Hendrickson


Lots of folks have been busy digging the last of their taters as they prepare for the coming winter. As I watched a couple along the roadside gather theirs I was reminded of the old saying all vines and no taters.



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  • Reply
    Tom Tester
    October 19, 2020 at 5:27 pm

    Hi Tipper. Know the expression well and have experienced it before I gave in planting by the signs! I remember an article you wrote about October roses /chrysanthemums I think you had another name for them ? Any way have you ever seen them change bloom color? My father in law and I have lavender colored ones for years but the last two years his changed to yellow with red highlights any idea? No known source of cross breeding .

    • Reply
      October 19, 2020 at 7:05 pm

      Tom-I called them White and Yellow Octobers 🙂 I’ve never known of Granny’s changing color, but how cool is that!

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    October 4, 2017 at 9:08 am

    We haven’t dug our sweet potatoes yet. They are the last to harvest from our garden. I sure hope they are not all vines and no taters!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 3, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    If you used a middle buster where we lived you would have to walk three rows below the plow. We had to plow with a hillside turner that you flipped over at the end of the row.
    I might have told this’n before but it is worth telling again. One year we planted our taters in rows that all angled down the mountain torge the house. Come time to dig em we would just get them started and they would roll right into a pipe that ran into the basement.
    See I told you is was worth telling again. It woulda been even better if it had been the truth.

  • Reply
    October 3, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    Good one, know a few folks with this issue. I always enjoyed gathering taters, Daddy rigged a horse drawn middle buster we’d pull behind a H john deere, you’d have to drive it while the tractor pulled it.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    October 3, 2017 at 11:55 am

    I can understand the saying referring to sweet potatoes. I guess I am one who doesn’t know how to grow them right. After 3 years of “all vines and no taters”, I quit trying to grow them. I really think it is too cold to grow them here.
    In my years working I knew a lot of people that this fit. Most of the time they were promoted into high management positions since they could do no real productive work. Many of those in Washington fit this expression.

  • Reply
    October 3, 2017 at 11:04 am

    All my life I’ve heard farmers talking about “lots of vines but no taters”, I’ve even had that to happen to me. Even just the other day, my neighbor and friend, James was talking about having the most beautiful vines, but hardly a 5 gallon bucket full out of all his rows. Sometimes it’s like that.
    Now, since I don’t eat many taters as I use to, I just buy those 10 lb. bags at the grocery. It’s cheaper anyway, by the time you get fertilizer and have to hoe the blooming things. I recon it’s the summer heat and humidity that gets to me. But I liked it! …Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 3, 2017 at 10:22 am

    All mouth and no backbone. Kinda like being just a “mouth with legs.” One day a feller was watching me whittlin on a piece of wood. He comes out with “If it was me, I’d make a slingshot.” Without a word I laid down my piece of wood, got another similar piece of wood and a knife, offered it to him and said “It’s you, make a slingshot.” He never offered any more suggestions.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    October 3, 2017 at 10:22 am

    I can identify with where this expression came from. While growing up we always bedded our Sweet Potatoes to grow our on slips. We had one garden which was on a hillside and the upper third was red clay, my Dad always planted our Sweet Potatoes in this section and grew huge potatoes. One year we had a surplus of Sweet Potato Slips and there were several left after we had planted ours and given slips to everyone who wanted some, we also had a garden located next to the river which consisted of sandy-loamy soil where we grew tomatoes, we had planted all the Tomatoes Dad wanted to plant (which was always around 100 plants) and I asked him if I could use the rest of this garden to plant some of the surplus Sweet Potato Slips. He advised me I was wasting my time, of course I thought I was smarter at that time than my Dad. I planted two rows that were forty yards long. As the summer passed I had the prettiest Sweet Potato Vines you can imagine, they were much prettier than the ones in the Red Clay Garden, I pointed this out to Dad several times and in his teaching way he agreed they were pretty but told me to “just wait”. Sure enough, come fall when we dug our taters in the Red Clay Garden we had bushels of taters some weighed up to fifteen pounds. I couldn’t wait to dig my taters and show Dad how smart I was, well after digging them I found I had all vines and no taters. The vines had roots which went down several feet but had no taters on them. I discovered that Dad was correct about where to plant Sweet Potatoes and that he was smarter than his cocky young smart alleck son. Sweet Tater roots must encounter resistance to form the tuber which we call a tater. This was a lesson I remembered well. Always plant Sweet Taters in the poorest soil you have in your garden.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 3, 2017 at 10:19 am

    I have heard that saying, but not often around here…Now then, a couple of years ago we had a real problem with our taters…We couldn’t get a hoe/grip around what caused lots of bloomin’ beautiful vines, but taters were far and few between! When the year before we had more potatoes than we could store and give some away. Sure wish we had some this year…I miss them more when we can grapple a few for peas or green beans or lay around a roast than about anytime in the Fall.
    I love NC and SC sweet potatoes…haven’t got over the mountain to get any so far but will soon. In the meantime my husband picked us up four nice big ones (all they had sidewise) and I cooked two.
    In this instance….the sayin’ would be…”Large tater, no flavor”…..I never ate a sweet potato that was so bland in flavor….Guess, I’ll have to buy a can or dark orange yams and mix the two flavorless taters with them….Well, I do guess they still have the “vetavitamins” in them like my favorite comedian Lucille Ball would pronounce….Ha
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…We need to pray for all our country music fans and entertainers during this very sad time!

  • Reply
    October 3, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Never heard it – but then no one grew potatoes where I grew up. Maybe one could say he’s all vine and no “melons” . . . or “squash” . . . but they just don’t sit right on the ear.
    Never heard the hat and cattle phrase, but I was a farm girl not a ranch girl. I haven’t even heard it since we took to raising cattle though I’ve seen plenty who fit the bill. Bet there are phrases of a similar meaning having to do will some of the fancy trucks around here – or maybe we should make up a few – most of the folks who drive them have no rural road manners!
    Only thing close to the phrases mentioned that is in my purview is “he’s all show” when referring to someone who is pretentious. We also say someone has “a lot of bluff and bluster”.

  • Reply
    eva m. wike
    October 3, 2017 at 9:34 am

    Yuns are ‘coming down hard’ on those windy folks! My Daddy would be ‘on your side of the fence’ I reckon. He never ‘put up’ with foolishness and never hesitated to discretely label the TALKER as a WIND BAG! We knew him to always be gracious to folks and expected the same from his ELEVEN CHILDREN!
    Eva Nell Mull Wike

  • Reply
    October 3, 2017 at 9:00 am

    I’ve never heard that one. A similar saying I have heard is “all bark and no bite.”

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 3, 2017 at 8:27 am

    Not sure if I had ever heard that one but I get it. I expect there are lots of sayings like that with a regional flavor; such as “big hat, no cattle.” “All show and no go” said of horses. A KJV version is ‘the crackling of thorns under a pot’ meaning giving an impression of heating but ineffective. Seems the more competent someone is the less regard they have for pretense. I want to be just what I seem to me.
    I went to tech school with a fella who was like that. He was impressive on first acquaintance but in tme the gilt wore off showing the lead underneath. Darn shame and I hope he outgrew it.

  • Reply
    Brian P. Blake
    October 3, 2017 at 8:13 am

    In Texas the saying is, “All hat and no cattle.”

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    October 3, 2017 at 8:00 am

    Tipper–That one is new to me but I like it and will probably remember it. This was a grand year for potatoes here. My row of Kennebecs produced wonderfully well. I seldom let much of a row mature, thanks to being mighty partial to new potatoes, but even with giving spuds away on a regular basis I still had a lot left for winter.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 3, 2017 at 5:21 am

    I’ve heard that expression. I didn’t think it referred to sweet potatoes. I thought it referred to vines that should be producing lots of potatoes but for some reason turned out to grow lovely vines but no substance. The substance being potatoes, in this case.
    I’ve know a few people like that. They talk all the time but rarely say anything.

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