Friday, May 24, 2013

One Potato, Two Potato...

Pre-summer is upon us here in the Pacific Northwest!

This is the season when gardeners in my area kick into high gear in the vegetable patch. We haul out our tillers, broad forks, shovels, and hoes and get busy readying our soil to accept summer's bounty...whether in the form of seeds, starts, or by simply weeding around permanent plantings such as fruit trees, grape vines, or blueberry bushes.

Potato planting time is always a highlight for me. It's ridiculously easy to plant, tend, and harvest potatoes. Really a beginning gardener's friend. And if you've never eaten a fresh-from-the-garden potato, you're in for a treat--and quite possibly a surprise, too. They are dense, sweet treats, with delicate, thin skins just perfect for buttering and eating. There's no need to add a lot of fancy ingredients--just bake, butter, and enjoy.

To plant potatoes, this is what I've done for years and is considered blasphemy by some folks, but it works for me: Toward the very end of winter, I keep back around 5 pounds of the potatoes (organic) that I've bought in the grocery store. Out they go into my cold garage, whereupon they eventually begin to sprout from the potato "eyes."

When a likely day appears in the garden (in my area, it's usually sometime in early May), I take those potatoes and plant them about 4 inches deep, making sure there is at least one sprouting "eye" for each tuber that I plant. In years' past I've taken the time to cut larger potatoes into pieces in order to get more starts and, theoretically, more eventual potatoes, but I believe I have my best success by simply planting whole potatoes, no matter how big they are. I have no idea why this is, but my gut tells me it's because we have very wet springs here and the cut portions tend to rot faster than the intact potatoes.

When the potato plants emerge, I occasionally add well-composted soil and/or straw to increase the depth at which the tubers are maturing. You'll find that some of the potatoes want to stick through the soil...and if that happens, those potatoes will turn green...and green skins on potatoes are toxic. So I do my best to keep my potatoes well hidden under a protective covering.

After some time growing, you'll notice blossoms on your plants. I think they are actually quite pretty--plus I know what's coming soon, so that makes them even prettier, in my opinion.

When the potato plants begin to die back you can begin to harvest the tubers. Carefully dig down and collect them. You'll be amazed at how many you get!

One of my sons and his wife recently bought their first home and promptly put in a vegetable garden. I went over to exclaim on their wonderful new garden and hear them tell me in minute detail just how they did it. They were so proud of their efforts and kept talking about "eating clean and fresh." And then the best moment came when my son looked at me and smiled and said, "Remember how we used to love to go outside and dig up potatoes for dinner?"

Frankly it amazed me that this was his recollection because my recollection is that when he and his brothers were required to go dig up potatoes, they sometimes carried on as if I was about the meanest mom on the planet.

And then I turned to watch my sweet little grandson (age 2) happily digging in the dirt. And I had to smile because I know that soon it will be his turn to dig up potatoes for dinner, and he'll likely gripe about the forced labor just like his dad did.

It's the circle of life, and it's good.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if it is just as easy to plant potatoes in the south? Here it gets very hot and we have mild winters. But I can winter over a lot of things that others can't. Potatoes are some of my favorite vegetables....
    I am so glad that you have started that tradition and those memories in your family! That is beautiful!