On potatoes

img_1162Rejects, soon to be populating the compost heap

We planted potatoes this weekend.  This is about 3 weeks later than normal:  I kind of hate to think our harvest will likewise be 3 weeks later, but, so be it.  Planting them “on time” would’ve been futile.  Our very wet and very cold spring, coupled with the clay soil here, would’ve meant rotting potatoes.

There are seriously fewer things that stink as much as a rotten potato.  I have stuck my hands in all manner of awful things, but a sodden, rotting potato is a small water balloon of horror.

Likewise, the late planting meant most of the spuds were spookily sprouting little forests of white-armed sprouts climbing from wrinkled tubers.  Every year, we consume a lot but not all the potatoes.  Every year, I plant more.  Every year, I tell myself I need to find someplace colder than my basement to store them.  Every year, this mantra is repeated.

But this year, I am glad they’re in the ground.  This year the land grab continued as I to devoted even more space to these “apples of the earth” as the French so lovingly call them.  This year kind blogging friends have contributed to the variety by generously giving me five crazy ones:  All Blues, Swedish Peanut Fingerling, Purple Majesty, Huckleberry and Purple Peruvian Fingerling:  I am really looking forward to those beauties! What a little rainbow of colors. (My typical potatoes are much more pedestrian; most are now in their 5th season of seed potatoes grown here so I at least know they grow well.  They’re russets, Kennebecs, Pontiacs, Katahdins and Yukons.)  Including the new additions, there are a lot of potatoes in the ground now.

I wonder what’ll happen next year.

17 responses to “On potatoes

  1. We saved some baby spuds from the fall and after many months in the back pantry, that’s very much what they looked like. We planted them (also late this year because of cold and rain) and they are now doing fine. In fact, I’d say the potato patch is extremely happy right now with our (mostly) unseasonably cool spring.

  2. I think you’re gonna love the growth habit of the All Blue, which I also have. The new growth has a great color and the potatoes are..well..mouthwatering.

    Alas, until I build up my seed potato stock to the point that I want it, most of my potatoes are going right to storage for seed next year.

  3. Diana R.Smith

    Actually I’ve found planting “late” really doesn’t make a whole lot of difference…when the weather gets right plants,even ‘taters take off and catch up quickly. A June planted garden will often do better than a May garden. For instance, green peppers hate hate hate cold and will sulk for weeks but wait a couple extra weeks and they will really produce more than if you rush them into the ground. After 43 years of gardening I’ve learned to not be in a rush to get things in the garden….now if I could just remember that the greenhouse makes things take off I wouldn’t end up with all the huge tomato plants that can’t go out in the cold! DEE

  4. grandmabecker

    I have never planted potatoes before, but I will be planting some this weekend.
    It has been such a wet spring, and we also have clay which we have been amending for a few years.
    I read somewhere about planting on top of the soil-or clay, and also in baskets. I am gonna try both. Anyone out there try this? If it doesn’t work, I will plant in the soil-clay, next year!
    Have a great day. I was out this am for a drive along the St Clair river. Beautiful day, lots of fisherman out in boats doing what they love!! Lots of bird life in the marshes.
    Spring in Michigan CAN be beautiful.

  5. “small water balloon of horror” Ugh…I sooooo know what you’re talking about here….. Every year we repeat the same mantra here as well. I’m not sure I have enough acreage to keep this family well stocked in spuds!! 🙂

  6. since 4 years we live in switzerland, and there the potatoes were called “apples of the oven” (herdäpfel), it seems a little ridiculous to me… but we plant now three sorts of potatoes from switzerland…

  7. “There are seriously fewer things that stink as much as a rotten potato. ”

    Boy, howdy, did you get that one right. We dug up a few of those last year, and nearly gagged.

    I grew All Blues last year, and out of four varieties, those were the only ones I dropped from the lineup for this year. I replaced them with German butterballs. The All Blues produced very well, but they just weren’t anything special in terms of flavor or texture, we thought. I love my Sangres for their texture, the La Rattes for their profound flavor, and the Kennebecs for their meal-sized units. Can’t wait to see what the German Butterballs are like.

  8. yes on rotten potatoes…they are bad : )

    Amen on the Auger …wow. I still depend on the post hole digger and scare the $%^& out of my neighbour in the middle of the night : )

    I love fences…but hate to erect them and maintain them as well. Didnt I read on your blog farming is –% mending fences…it is true. It seems like I am always fixing and mending something around here!

    Any gosling yet? I saw our first one hatch today.

  9. or is it goosling?

  10. Oh girl, I’m so with you on the potatoes! I never worry about getting my spuds planted early because the potato beetles seem to be less of a problem with later potatoes.

    And oh my! My basement (aka wine cellar, aka root cellar) is ALIVE right now! A couple potatoes rolled out of the bag at the bottom of the steps and UNDER the open stairs. There is a shoot growing up down there that looks like it could grab and strangle an unwary person or beast that happens down the steps! I swear, it must be two feet long at least. I really need to tend to those ‘taters that have sprouted. I hate dealing with the stink, the waste, the mess….I do have all of my potatoes planted already this year, so these will just get tossed onto the compost pile. Sigh…

  11. I love the purple peruvian fingerlings 🙂 I’ve never grown potatoes myself, but your description of the sprouts made me think of the few “alien” potatoes I found over the winter in my cold storage – they look like various combos of horns, antennae, and limbs from a descended alien!

  12. I wonder if establishing raised beds would help you as much as it helped me. As an ex-Michigander who landed in northeast Indiana, we have had good luck in this hard clay by raising beds and planting our spuds around Saint Patrick’s day, as per the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

  13. One can never plant too many potatoes, but then I prefer them to most other starchy staples.

  14. Ed, yeah, they do want to grow, don’t they? I know your new stance on spuds and though I agree in principle I would consider potatoes a bit of a plenary indulgence…at least, I would consider a few of them to be such! My mom is so nutty she won’t even eat carrots considering their glycemic index.

    Christy, sounds like you need to up your supply! You know, my Yukon Golds are spuds I got from the organic box scheme we ran for our kid’s school 3 years back: I simply planted some and voila, more spuds. So I guess what I am saying (and Ed too apparently from his pantry) is you don’t necessarily need to spend $12 for a pound of seed potatoes. If that helps. I’d hate to see you “doing without.” Funny thing about the All Blues: I was warned against them by another friend who said they looked so similar to his soil that he couldn’t harvest them all, ever.

    Dee, yeah, greenhouses throw a wrench in the works, don’t they? It’s like hyperdrive. But yes, you are quite right, the kooky springs we all seem to get really do favor your waiting to plant. Trouble is, it’s also spring so you really *want* to plant because it has been a long winter! Argh! Peppers and eggplants are fussy, surely. That’s why they live in my greenhouses, where the problem there becomes that it gets so hot they stop producing blossoms. Then the temp drops and we’re back in business.

    Grandmabecker, the thing with spuds is they grow up from the tuber so all that dirt needs to be on top of them and the branches (for that’s what we eat, the thickened branch) are well covered with dirt. That’s why clay is hard; it’s hard to dig, it takes a long time to warm up and dry out. I have had luck with hilling, with planting deeply and only so-so luck with planting shallowly or on top of the clay and mulching (always get green spuds). But yeah, it’s nice and spring now isn’t it!

    Angie, you’re going to have to find more places to put them! Do you have any extra tires around the property? I know people do use them as spud farms, stacked 2-3 high. Me, I don’t know if I would go that route but if you’re all fighting for your last spuds in January then it might be land-grab time for you too 🙂 Time to get creative! Me, I have been looking at our old kiddie pool, thinking, well, it leaks now, how about using it for potatoes.

    Stefanie, I think “apples of the oven” make a lot more sense!! And I also think “food with a past” is fun, were they potatoes you got or even grew when you lived in Switzerland?

    Yeah, Kate, isn’t it fun, just changing up? I wouldn’t say we get bored with our spuds but it is exciting to have an opportunity to try new things. I hope the German butterballs turn out well for you; the name is surely evocative, makes me want to make schnitzel.

    WF, jealous on the goslings!! Nope; our turkey is still sitting on the goose eggs. I think she’s got another week or two to go poor baby but she shows no signs of getting up. But yes, it’s a matter of perspective, these fences. It’s kind of like how freaked out I get that it takes so long to get the first batch of canning done: I think, I am going to do this ALL SUMMER? and then it gets easier. I guess because the fence thing is sporadic that I dislike it.

    Blaithin, yes!!! I had the same thing happen where one of the spuds grew through a gap in the shelf (they’re stored in wood boxes below the rows of canned goods in the basement) where I went to get a jar of salsa and TOTALLY freaked out there was a leafy branch in there too. Boo! But: I am glad it doesn’t only happen to me, as I think I am such a slacker with this stuff.

    MC, Absolutely, alien. It is funny because in the garden they send up short, purposeful branches that leaf out easily and readily. We just starve them to death in our warm basements or at least I do, bad gardener that I am.

    Hi Milton! Yeah, we have raised beds, and you are quite right they are just miracle workers, aren’t they? It really has helped our harvest of root crops in particular. And St Pat’s Day for sure is the earliest we can plant them, or Good Friday at the latest; both came and went with too much wet, cold earth outside to plant the things. Next year?

    Nada, I do too, even though I love baking bread. Then, well, I just make potato bread and I am REALLY happy 😉

  15. “small water balloon of horror”….! Thanks for the first laugh of my day……

    Planted All Blues last year. They are coming up gangbusters, all the ones I didn’t get up because I couldn’t see them……still like ’em, though.

    My conundrum is following the advice to leave the spuds outside unwashed for a few days after digging them up….when I did this last year they all turned green on the surface. So, leave them out or not?

    • Hi Ms Petunia! I have heard that about All Blues: they’re so hard to see! Sounds like perennial potatoes to me, which of course I kind of like, lazy gardener that I am… Well, what I do to cure the spuds is I put them on the floor of my garage and close the door so it’s nice and dark and relatively cool in there. This means of course I need to park outside though…. I’ve also put them on top of my chicken brooder (it’s a wood frame of chicken wire) but some of the little spuds fall through the mesh, oops.

  16. this will be my first time planting blue potatoes.. my daughter who lives in Denver told me she just put hers in the ground and i hate to say it but i never heard of blue potatoes..yeah it’s been that long…my soil is finally drying out enuff to plant so i will be doing that this week..if i remember correctly my husband used to mound then after the leaves started to appear….i am excited to finally have a garden up here after so many years of going without .. alot to do..still need to get shade on the greenhouse for my orchids.. thanks for letting me chat

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