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The Beginning

August 10th, 2013

Earlier this week I harvested the first new potatoes of the year.  My potatoes went in the ground a little later than I had hoped, if they were planted earlier I would have had fresh potatoes long before now.
These are ‘Red Gold’ potato, an early potato, reaching maturity at 70 days.  When the vines first started to die I thought they were blighted, but then I remembered that they were just a short season potato.  We are certainly enjoying these little beauties (I planted them close together so they’d be small).  There’s nothing quite like fresh potatoes after being without for 4-5 months!

Have you harvested any potatoes yet?

Real Food

July 14th, 2012

Maybe most important, farm food itself is totally different from what most people now thing of as food: none of those colorful boxed and bagged products, precut, parboiled, ready to eat, and engineered to appeal to our basic desires. We were selling the opposite: naked, unprocessed food, two steps from the dirt.

Kristin Kimball from The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love

The main reason I started an edible garden is because I was dissatisfied with the quality of produce at the grocery store. There’s just something about food that’s freshly plucked from the garden. I still buy some things at my local farmer’s market, but even that isn’t quite as good as something that’s only minutes from plant to plate.

This week we’ve been enjoying so many wonderful homegrown vegetables: beets, potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and all kinds of herbs to season and add flavor. Every morning we’ve been enjoying harvest vegetable hash with eggs poached on top – life is truly good! (for my recipe visit Eat Outside the Bag).

What are you enjoying from the garden this week?

Dreams Bigger than My Garden

April 30th, 2012

Sometimes, when you make a seed or plant order you forget how small your garden is. This seems to have happened when I made my seed potato order. The box arrived last Friday and I couldn’t believe how many potatoes were inside. Thankfully I have space in my mom’s garden to plant a few of these and I’ll have a spot cleared out soon when I cut my overwintered cover crop. I will plant some of my potatoes now and save some of the long keepers to plant mid-June for a late fall harvest.

This order came from The Maine Potato Lady and I have a bag or organic Kennebec (my favorite potato) from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. I ordered from Maine Potato Lady because she had Katahdin, which I really wanted to try this year. When I looked though all the varieties available, I just had to try some new ones alongside some old favorites (like fingerling potatoes). Which kinds did I get? (descriptions from Maine Potato Lady Website)

Kennebec – my personal favorite long storage all purpose potato. These potatoes fry up like a dream, and since most of our potatoes are eaten fried for breakfast, this tops my list!

Katahdin – Still very popular here in the Northeast, this old standard has been around since 1932. Flat to round tubers with smooth buff skin and white flesh. High yielding and drought resistant; adaptable to many growing conditions. One of the best for any of your winter soups. Excellent storage. Numerous light purple flowers on large spreading plants.

German Butterball -This is my favorite potato, a round to oblong tuber with lightly netted golden skin that wraps around deep yellow flesh. Slightly mealy, this beauty is superb for everything – frying, baking, mashing, soups – you name it. Resistant to scab and viruses; some field resistance to late blight, but susceptible to rhizoctonia. Large upright vigorous plant with white blossoms.

Dark Red Norland -Customers sometimes ask, “What should I choose for early spuds that steam up well?” I always recommend Dark Red Norland; it’s easy to grow with consistent yields of beautiful round red tubers from large to small. Steam or boil some of these babies for those first early meals straight from the garden. Resistant to scab; fair storage. Purplish-blue flowers on a medium-sized plant.

Mountain Rose – With red skin and red flesh, this new release from Colorado joins Purple Majesty in being very high in antioxidants. Developed from All Red and a white-fleshed chipping variety, Mountain Rose shows good promise as a specialty variety for chefs and market gardeners. A moist but not waxy texture makes it suitable for most uses. Early to medium maturity and high yields. Resistant to second growth, hollow heart, shatter bruise, and some viruses. Slightly susceptible to fusarium dry rot. Semi-erect plants with reddish-purple flowers.

Purple Viking – Truly a beautiful potato, with deep purple skin dappled with pink splashes and stripes. Bright white and creamy-good, the flesh bakes or mashes perfectly. This variety produces what we call “lunkers”, large oversize potatoes, so plant close (8”-10”) to control size. Small-to-medium spreading plant has some resistance to leafhoppers.

La Ratta Fingerling – From France comes this special fingerling. In appearance Laratte is similar to Banana, though a fine net to the tan skin and a nutty flavor to the dark yellow flesh set it apart. Smooth and firm texture. The babies (1/2”-1”) truly melt in your mouth. Fine chefs love this gourmet morsel, and the demand is high. Matures about ten days later than Banana. Resistant to scab and viruses. White flowers top medium-sized plants.

Red Thumb – Dug as small “babies,” these bright red-skinned thumbs of delicacy have beautiful dark pink flesh. Pleasing flavor and firm flesh is perfect for roasting in olive oil and rosemary, then caramelizing. Serve with your favorite steak and salad. An interesting fingerling for the specialty market. Very productive small- to medium-sized plant.

I certainly can’t wait to try a few of these new varieties. We just finished off the last of our homegrown potatoes a week or so ago so it will quite a while till potatoes grace our plates unless I find some at Local Roots. Some year I want to experiment with early planting in a low tunnel and with luck, I’d be harvesting some new potatoes right about the time the ones from the pantry are gone.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy a potato?

I have curated a list of seed potato sources, if you’re interested head on over & check it out. Want to know more about growing your own potatoes? Head on over to the Your Day blog at Ethel to read my in depth article on growing your own potatoes.

The Last Harvest

October 17th, 2011

Except for possibly some spinach and arugula, I harvested the last major item from the 2011 edible garden. Last week, the remainder of the potatoes were exhumed from the earth and stashed away in the garage to provide sustenance through the winter. You might think it’s a little late to be harvesting potatoes and it is for me.

Generally, I plant potatoes early in the spring and harvest them in July. Here in NE Ohio we had a very wet spring which made planting potatoes early impossible .  Any that were planted in April rotted in their water graves. I planted fresh potatoes in their place at the beginning of June, and they grew beautifully all summer.  Potatoes planted earlier have less trouble with potato beetles.  I didn’t spot a single potato beetle here at Chiot’s Run.  We spotted one or two potato beetles at my mom’s house, but they were never a problem.

Since I had planted all of my saved seed potatoes in the spring, I didn’t have any seed potatoes left for replanting in June, so I ordered some from Wood Prairie Farm. I got 1 pound of ‘Elba’ and ‘King Harry’ and 2.5 pounds of ‘Butte’. They all grew well, but Butte outproduced the others by a lot, which isn’t surprising since they were in a section of the garden that has better soil. I harvested 15 pounds of ‘Butte’ from the seed potatoes.  I’m really interested to see how the later harvest affects the keeping abilities of the potatoes.  Theoretically, they should last later into the spring since they were harvested a few months after the other potatoes.

This isn’t my entire potato crop, some of them were were grown in the potager at my mom’s house. We planted them in May and harvested them in early September when we returned from vacation. They were actually ready to harvest much earlier, but we were on our Tiny Trailer Travels for most of August.

There’s something really great about growing a good crop of potatoes each year. Homegrown potatoes are much tastier than their supermarket counter parts and it sure is nice to have that secure feeling a good stockpile of potatoes gives you.   Even though potatoes and other food are readily available in the supermarket all winter long, it certainly gives you a sense of security to have a big box of potatoes in the pantry! This winter I’m experimenting with keeping my potatoes in the garage until it’s super cold, then in the outdoor basement stairwell. I’ll keep you updated on how the root cellar alternatives work out.

Do you grow potatoes in your garden? Do you grow enough to eat throughout the year? What do you think will be your last harvest from the garden?

For an in depth article about growing your own potatoes read this post on the Your Day Blog.

PS – love those gloves in the last photo? Ethel is retiring the Port Royale style and they’ll be 50% off this week.

Surprise Harvest

July 21st, 2011

When I was harvesting my garlic earlier this week I got a bonus harvest: potatoes.

Last year the area where the garlic was planted was used to grow a crop of potatoes. Invariably a few of the tiny potatoes hide in the soil, overwinter, and grow into small potato plants. They never produce heavy yield of potatoes, but you’ll find one or two small potatoes when you pull up the plant.

I ended up with a small potato harvest along with my garlic harvest. Since I happened to making a big pot of beef stew that day, I scrubbed them up and threw them in the pot. I’m always happy for an unexpected harvest of things I didn’t plant!

Do you ever have volunteer potatoes?

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.