Monday, July 28, 2014

Grow This: Potatoes


Dirty Goodness
I had never eaten a potato before two days ago. Oh sure, I've enjoyed potatoes in homes and restaurants for years. For the last two years I've been buying a mighty tasty mix of red, white, and blue varieties from my favorite farmer's market vendor, Arellano Produce, out of Ontario, CA*. As tasty as those Arellano spuds may be, however, something is getting lost between the ground they were grown in and the days or hours before I buy them.

After harvesting and roasting the potatoes from my family garden recently, I realized that I was only at that moment tasting a potato's full potential. The flavor, across the red and white varieties that we'd grown, was so full and complex that I could have had them as the meal's feature, instead of a side dish, and I would have been thrilled. I'm already planning the next selections to plant. I'm thinking some blues, my current favorite spud, should be a part of the mix.

Would you like to grow your own? It's a snap. Just get some of your favorite organically grown potatoes, because you'll want to grow what you already enjoy, (also, non-organic potatoes won't sprout roots because of chemicals used in production), put them in a cool, dark place in a bag for a few days and check them frequently. When roots start popping out check for mold and if they are mold-free stick them into your garden spaced a few inches apart under a few inches of good soil. Leaves will appear above the ground a bit later. They like it cool, so at least try to start them in cooler months. Our wee crop took a few months to mature in our raised bed, but yours may vary by climate. You can uncover them periodically to check their growth, but be sure and replace the soil afterward. A decent amount of potatoes as shown above takes a good chunk of real estate, but you could even grow a few in a window box, a bag, a laundry basket, or even a trash can. In any case, keep them well watered, but don't drown them. Make sure that the soil drains well.

Are you afraid that your brown thumb may kill the we spuds? Let me tell you, I found slug eggs around mine after I noticed the leaves getting chomped. I knew that they hadn't come from the outside because our beds are fortified with copper tape. Yes, it works, but it's pricey. Use it for slugs or snail defense. Any copper will do, but the tape is the simplest option. That said, I had to dig up everything below the ground and then had to cut back everything above ground to kill the existing slugs after crushing the eggs so that the wee bastards didn't migrate to my other plants. Ending the slugs should have been the end of my spuds too, right? Nope. Potatoes are survivors, friends. Fear not, and dig in.

Even the smaller potatoes in our harvest were a revelation of flavor. Grow some and taste it for yourself. More info on growing potatoes can be found here.


Clean Goodness
*Who also provide my second favorite veggie-fed, cage-free eggs**. So. Good.
**I miss my old pal Dan up North. Best. Eggs. Ever.