On produce imperfection

Breakfast:  5 types of potatoes and blue and white eggs

Retrieving some weeny-looking potatoes from the depths of the chilly root cellar this morning, it occurred to me how few of my spuds were grocery store- or Martha Stewart-perfect.  I usually have to peel off a spot or two from the smaller ones before eating them.  This is not terribly unusual:  our clay soils are “heavy” and not the best for potatoes.  The very same potatoes were grown in the sandy soils of the school’s garden and they achieved monster, spot-free proportions…it made me momentarily wistful for a looser growing medium.  Momentarily, that is.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere.  Not all you grow looks perfect.  This is beyond okay:  the taste is reason enough to do it.  Taste, and a small smirk of satisfaction.

The school’s potatoes went mushy and sprouty at about twice the rate as the home-grown ones did:  a lesson learned for the children (eat them quickly) and a lesson learned for me (stop whining about your clay).

11 responses to “On produce imperfection

  1. why do potatoes grown in Clay store better??

    I have sandy loam and they grow well but get mushy fast. I thought I hadn’t stored them well. BTW I have the best root cellar. I should take a Pic.. when the camera gets replaced I will… I have an oil change pit someone put into my barn when they built it. LOL

  2. We have a lot of sand ’round here and I’ve had my share of mushy potatoes (though I didn’t grow them myself). Interesting observation. I’m looking forward to planting my own this year. Mostly from the mushy, sprouty potatoes that are growing in my “root cellar”.

  3. our clay soil made weeny potatoes also. but they didn’t go soft and they haven’t sprouted. i want to try purple potatoes this year, but I’ve heard they don’t like clay. think I’ll risk it.

  4. I read somewhere (can’t remember where) about a new gardener who used to throw out storebought veggies when they got a spot or a sprout. When she grew her own, suddenly she understood their real labor value, and started cutting out spots and eating the good part. I’m not repeating her words very well, but I think the gist is important — when we grow our own food, we don’t waste!

    About your potatoes storing better. I read in Root Cellaring by Mike and Nancy Bubel that one of the nutrients in soil (potash?) has a huge impact on storage quality of root crops. My memory’s clearly shot tonight, and I returned the book to the library, but it’s worth checking it out because you might be able to add some to the school’s garden and get better storage.

  5. I just figure a paring knife is your best kitchen friend when you’re eating homegrown.

  6. I wish people would keep this in mind when shopping for produce! Here in France (and probably elsewhere!) farmers can’t sell imperfect fruit because people don’t think it’s pretty enough. But I’ve found that when you grow ‘ugly’ things in your garden they usually taste much better than the ‘perfect produce’ you find elsewhere.

    Great topic to post on!

  7. Shelly, aren’t you fortunate with your “root cellar”! I love repurposing stories like that, especially when they really work for their new purpose.

    Aastricker, you know, for a change I stored ALL my spuds in the root cellar (I had feared it got too cold in there for them…it does, in a normal winter) but for once I will be able to eat spuds in April! Woo-hoo! They haven’t sprouted at all in there. (Normally I use the cellar to store apples and cabbage; this year I stored apples on the back porch (where it gets really cold) and I didn’t bother to store cabbage at all…just let it grow on in the greenhouses. Last year, though, the basement-stored spuds were positively frightening, all spouty icky things!)

    Mama Bean, here’s my theory: the darned things have to FIGHT so hard to even grow (and that soil stays cold, and damp) that actually simply living on through the winter in storage is nothing to them!! Thanks for confirming my less-than-scientific observation. I grew, rather successfully too, a lot of purple potatoes (mostly fingerling types) last year so do give it a try. They don’t produce a lot but they’re pretty AND tasty.

    WF: 😀 YUM

    Anna, do yourself a favor and buy that book! The Bubels write some wonderful stuff; Nancy’s Seed Starters Handbook is probably one of my top 3 favorite gardening books ever. And again even your great memory proves the point that we can’t all know the reasons why, and there’s so much variability in it all from one patch of soil to another, between varieties, and certainly between locations on the globe. But I am sure there is something magical in clay…whether it’s potash or a dozen things, I am keeping my clay.

    Stef, it is. And it certainly should be said that not all our produce is ugly or spotty or anything, it’s just…we’re better acquainted with imperfection.

    Mme Slif, indeed. Isn’t it legal now to sell ugly produce in the EU? I thought I read that recently…that it’s better to shorten the chain and sell slightly less-than-pretty stuff grown locally than commercially perfect food from far away. Anyway, yes! Hope you can do a spot of gardening yourself this year.

  8. Somewhere in his book Blithe Tomato, Mike Madison (brother toe Deboprah Madison) made the comment “Crooked is good”. Ever since I read it, that comment has been a guiding principle for me. After all, it’s only been in the last century or so that we have confused “food” with “high art”.

  9. Dennis, I will have to find that book. I knew her brother was a grower, but if he has even a bit of his sister’s talent then goodness it must have been a good read. And truthful! Thanks.

  10. I’m all for organic. It doesn’t need to look good as long as it tastes good! Any suggestions for a good organic insect killer? I saw Safer Brand EndAll. Do you know anyone who’s tried it? I like how many different pests it targets and how it kills them at all stages of development.
    This is the spray I’m talking about:

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