I've been off for a few days enjoying a much needed break from work. It's always so relaxing to have a few days to catch up on all the little things that seem to accumulate.
Over the weekend I planted my first crop of potatoes (at least I'm hoping they'll be a crop in early fall). I've never grown potatoes before but was inspired by all the creative ways in which people grow them. From using unusual containers such recycled tires and new garbage bins filled with soil to traditional trenches and potato boxes --there seems to be as many different ways to grow spuds as there are varieties of this delicious food staple.
As a kid I remember sprouting a sweet potato suspended by toothpicks in a glass half filled with water. Of course back then we never actually grew a potato but we sure ended up with a pretty vine that to a young child was magical.
Since I knew I wanted more than just a cool looking vine I decided to do a little potato growing research by searching the Internet. To my amazement my best chances of producing a harvest started with certified potato seeds. The picture on a web site of a potato seed looked suspiciously similar to a plain old potato that I could buy a supermarket.
(These aren't potato seeds but they look just this.)
"Now why on earth would I want to spend money for something that I already have in my kitchen?" I thought to myself. "Especially since there's a few in there sprouting," I pondered. Well after reading further the potato growing web guru informed me that supermarket potatoes are usually sprayed with a sprouting retardant so even those that show signs of sending out a shoot or two probably won't turn into a viable crop. Buying organic potatoes may yield a harvest when planted since these aren't sprayed, but potato seeds with good strong eyes on them would increase my odds of getting a harvest. And... since I'm not the gambling type I was finally convinced - potato seeds I would get.
Knowing that I needed to order potato seeds was only half the battle. The endless varieties of potatoes seemed mind blowing to me. I used to think there were only about 4 different types of potatoes - russet Idaho baking, white Maine, Yukon gold, and red. Well I quickly found out I was was in serious need of an education since the many choices available made my head spin. Thankfully due to the late date in which I was placing my order most varieties were sold out so I didn't have to think to hard - Phew! I finally settled "Gold Rush."
Here's the description from the online catalogue:
Released in 1992 from North Dakota, Gold Rush is a welcome addition to the russet repertoire. Attractive oblong-to-long tubers with smooth russeted skin and extremely white flesh are especially delicious for baking and fries. Mid-season maturity, high yields, resistance to hollow heart, common scab, verticillium wilt, and drought have made this variety popular. Large vigorous upright vine has light lavender flowers.
Well sounds good to me -sold! I ordered 3 lbs (yield is supposed to be 10 lbs for each pound planted) from Gurney's Seeds and within a few days a tiny little bag of potatoes arrived at my door.
The instruction slip that came with my order told me to cut the potatoes into smaller pieces ensuring that at least 2 good eyes were on each piece. Cutting the seeds into pieces would give me more plants instead of planting each one whole. After cutting I placed the potatoes on several layers of newspapers to dry out for a few days until the cut side dried over into a nice wound.
Here's what they look after drying for a few days.
A closer look.
A little closer.
Finally here they are placed on the bed and spaced out - ready for planting. I dug holes about 3-5 inches down and dropped the potatoes in there. Covered each one with soil and then prayed.
Sprouts should emerge in about two weeks. When the stems are about 8 inches high, I'll hill the vines up with soil leaving about half of the vine exposed. Hilling puts the root system deeper where the soil is cooler while the just scraped-up soil creates a light fluffy medium for the tubers to develop into. All tubers will form between the seed piece and the surface of the soil. Another hilling will be needed in another 2-3 weeks and yet another as well, 2 weeks after the second. On subsequent hilling, I'll add only an inch or two of soil to the hill, making sure there is enough soil atop the forming potatoes that they don't push out of the hill and get exposed to light (or they'll turn green).
As I wait for my tubers to sprout, I decided to pull up a recipe I like. This one is for potato pancakes. It's a versatile side dish that you can serve with brunch, dinner, or as part of a vegetarian meal. For added flavor top with sour cream, apple sauce, cranberry sauce, or maple syrup (for breakfast).
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 medium potatoes, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup vegetable oil
- In a large bowl, beat together eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Mix in potatoes and onion.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. In batches, drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the potato mixture into the skillet. Press to flatten. Cook about 3 minutes on each side, until browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels.