Farm where you are....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Grow potatoes

My grandmother had always grown and stored her own potatoes, but I never realized there was more to it than just plopping them in the ground.

While you can grow them in a container or in the ground, dirt or straw, I like the ground in the dirt, it give bigger yields. Even though it takes up more space, I like the sensation of getting in the soil and pulling out a bit of buried treasure.

You start with these little cutie's , either
a whole certified seed potato , cut into 3 or four chunks with an "eye" each, or you can buy "sets" already cut and ready to plant from a mail order catalog, on-line or nursery. Potatoes from the grocery store have growth retardants sprayed on them so they may not sprout for you correctly.

If you decide to cut your own from a whole potato, cut them into 3 or 4 pieces each with an "eye". Let them sit on your garage for a few days exposed to air so they scab over. They will look moldy and gross; but they are perfect for planting.

Put them in the ground a few inches down and cover them with soil. I put the "eye" sideways. Put a stick in where the potato is so you can remember and don't dig it up by accident.

As it comes out of the ground it will resemble tomato leaves a bit. as the plant grows, you want to mound the soil up around the stem, probably about once a week depending on how fast they grow so only about 6 inches is above the ground. This keeps the potatoes out of the sun. Potatoes exposed to sunlight become green and bitter and toxic. Never eat green or bitter tasting potatoes. This can happen in the grocery store too, so the same goes for them as well.

My friend ,Manuela ,helped me to take the spud plunge with her great advice.
I imagined organic, fresh, white, creamy, fluffy mashed mounds at Thanksgiving.
Two years ago, this was my entire potato harvest...

I mean my lame harvest. I planted after July, Waaay too late. For best results, plant them as early as possible, In Illinois I put mine in this year in late April.

As they grow you mound and they become sprawling. Some will develop seeds which looks like mini-green tomatos. Never eat these, they are extremely toxic with high contents of solanine. I cut them off right away so my kids don't get a hold of them.

After the plants flower, you can " carefully" dig for new potatoes , you know, those expensive gourmet kind. You want to be extremely careful not to scratch other potatoes you aren't digging up . The skin is very fragile. Cover back up the rest of the potatoes until you are ready to harvest them again.
Last year, when I stared digging, I wasn't sure what I was going to get after the previous year's harvest..

It was kind of like a treasure hunt. But, I had images of last years results and didn't set my hopes too high...and then....

Hey! Look at that! Holy cow! Is that what I think it is?! A real potato! My neighbors probably thought I'd lost it the way I whooped and hollered; it was like I had never seen a potato before.
I squealed every time one came out of the ground.

I ran in the house with a bowlful yelling "Look! Look!I grew these! Real potatoes! From our garden! How awesome is this?!"
My hubby looked at me for a minute,
and then I think he rolled his eyes.

Who can blame the guy?
All that for a root vegetable. Imagine if I had won a million dollars?

I had 4 plants and probably got about 6-8 potatoes per plant. This year I planted Russett and Yukon Gold varieties.

The full size potatoes are ready to harvest about 2-3 weeks after the tops die back. Brush off any dirt, but do not wash. Store in a cool, dark place until ready to eat.