March 14, 2011

You Say Potato

I'm a sucker for starches and love cooking with potatoes, making them a must have in our garden. This is our second year growing 'Red Norland' potatoes, but this year we are also adding 'Yukon Gold' and 'Kennebec', all varieties of Solanum tuberosum.

I bought these seed potatoes almost a month ago. They have been sitting in a cool room where they get lots of light but no direct sun. Within a week  the brown eyes sprouted and grew slowly while I forgot about them, waiting for the right time to plant. 

A couple of the 'Kennebec' potatoes were a little too big (the recommended planting size is 2-3ozs, and these were more like 4-5) and I wanted to split them, both to help them grow and increase the harvest. The package recommends dusting the cut surfaces with a powder fungicide, but not having any on hand, and wanting to experiment a little I tried a different way. I learned in plant pathology that potatoes, when cut, have the ability to heal over and form a new cuticle layer (skin). They can be cut with a sharp, sterilized knife  (dipped in diluted bleach) and set back in the cool room to cure, cut sides up. Generally this is the practice used in commercial production, since it is more cost efficient: all it takes is a little time (and no touching). After two weeks I could tell they were ready, the cut surface became dark and calloused, and the sprouts started growing again. 

Both the 'Red Norland' and 'Yukon Gold' are early potatoes, and I will harvest them when they flower to get yummy buttery fingerling potatoes. The 'Kennebec' are late variety, I will harvest them when the plants die and get big starchy potatoes perfect for my Basil Mashed Potatoes (I'll have to post the recipe when the basil comes into season). I plant everything in huge 15 gallon pots dug halfway into the hillside on the South to keep it cool in the summer. The open side makes for an easy tip-over-and-harvest. I fill it halfway with mushroom compost, add potatoes (I put the 'Red Norland' and 'Yukon Gold' together here), and add 3 inches more of compost. I'll have to pick up some more compost to cover the sprouts, which will hopefully pop their heads up in about 3 weeks. I'll count this as my first planting of summer edibles... something to get excited about.
"Found a little patched-up inn in the village of Bulson. Proprietor had nothing but potatoes; but what a feast he laid before me. Served them in five different courses-potato soup, potato fricassee, potatoes creamed, potato salad and finished with potato pie. It may be because I had not eaten for 36 hours, but that meal seems about the best I ever had." ~General Douglas MacArthur


  1. I've often considered growing potatoes, which I too love eating. Maybe I'll actually give it a go this year... I like the pot idea. I need to do some more research first though. Thanks for posting!

  2. Every year I plant potatoes in my kitchen garden but I have never bought any seed potatoes since I came to the USA. I only use grocery-bought potatoes that sprout before we get to eat them.

    It was when I was younger and working on potato research in Asia, that I dealt with tons and tons of seed potatoes. :) This year, I have some left-over fingerlings of various colors of potatoes that I want to try in the garden. You just reminded me! :)


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