I am looking forward to sharing this season's bounty of potatoes with my family.
My head gardener, Ryan McCallister, and my longtime housekeeper, Laura Acuna, recently harvested the last batch of potatoes. Potatoes are from the perennial nightshade Solanum tuberosum. As the world's fourth-largest food crop, following maize, wheat, and rice, potatoes are grown from “seed potatoes”, which are certified disease-free and specially grown in nurseries for planting purposes. Many of this season’s “seed potatoes” came from Irish Eyes Garden Seeds, a small family-owned business in Ellensburg, Washington.
The last two seasons, have produced so many healthy potatoes in a variety of different shapes, colors and tastes. I can't wait to use and enjoy this new supply of farm-grown potatoes this winter. Here are some photos.
Ryan and Laura are very pleased with this season’s potato harvest – there were lots and lots of delicious potatoes to pick down in my vegetable garden.
We planted our potatoes in the last week of May. The best time to plant is when the soil has dried enough to be workable. They do best as rotation crops, and should be placed away from where potatoes, tomatoes or peppers were grown in the last two years.
By July, some of the plants had turned brown, but not all – the crop still needed another few weeks. New potatoes are ready for harvest after about 10-weeks. A new potato is a small moist tender thin-skinned potato harvested early in the growing season.
A few weeks later, the potatoes are ready for harvesting. The best time to dig up potatoes is on a dry day once all the vines have died back. This means, when the tubers are done growing, and the potato plants have begun to turn yellow and withered – when there is no more sign of green.
This may be a less attractive sight in the garden, but it is a well anticipated one because it means the potatoes are ready!
Because potatoes grow underground, it is always a surprise to see how prolific the plants have been. Here, Ryan moves some of the soil in search of potatoes.
Ryan gently turned the soil using a four-pronged pitchfork. It’s important to dig them up carefully, so as not to puncture any of the tubers. Ryan started away from the potatoes and worked his way in to safely turn over the soil.
Then, Ryan manually began digging for the potatoes, so he could feel for them better underground.
Within minutes, there were potatoes everywhere.
The tubers form around the base of each plant among the roots. Native to the Andes of South America, the potato has become the world’s fourth-largest food crop, following rice, wheat, and maize.
Laura also helped to dig up the potato crops. An entire potato plant grows from just one potato eye, although when planting, always plant a piece of potato with at least two eyes to ensure germination.
Never wash potatoes until right before using – this shortens the potato’s storage life.
These plants were not planted too deeply – all the potatoes were buried within the top five-inches of soil. Every variety yielded a good amount of potatoes.
It was easy to see how the potatoes were connected to the plant at the root area. They were very easy to pull off, and often came loose by themselves while digging around them. Leave any green potatoes alone. When potatoes are exposed to light, they turn green, a sign the toxic substance called solanine is developing, which may cause illness if eaten in large quantities.
Ryan continued to dig around the soil – there are always more potatoes. Ryan and Laura picked every one they could find, even the tiniest of them. If not, they may grow into new plants, where they aren’t wanted.
Don’t leave harvested potatoes in the sun as excessive heat could cause them to cook. Just brush off as much soil as possible and let them dry in a cool place.
Do you know… the average American eats approximately 142-pounds of potatoes each year? Potatoes are grown in every state from Florida to Alaska, yielding approximately 30-billion pounds of potatoes annually.
The red skinned yellow fleshed Romera is great for mashing, baking and for adding to salads.
Blue Belle seed potatoes have a waxy consistency and are great for baking, and boiling.
Jester potatoes have purple skin with yellow around the eyes and variegated purple and yellow flesh. Because of their interesting appearance, they are fun for home gardeners to grow, and they are good for salads, or roasting.
This potato with deep yellow flesh is wonderful for boiling to roasting, to grilling and mashing.
Bellinda is another popular choice because of its excellent flavor.
The Krone is an all-around beauty inside and out. It grows very well under most conditions in any soil type, and is great for long term storage.
Yukon Gold is a large variety of potato most distinctly characterized by its thin, smooth eye free skin and yellow tinged flesh.
Red Sonia potatoes are red skinned with yellow flesh. They are resistant to scab, a common tuber disease, which makes them popular for planting.
Smiling Rose has light red skin with yellow around the eyes and a deep yellow flesh. It produces well and quickly.
Pioneer potatoes are long oval-shaped tubers, and are best for roasting, frying, and baking.
Ideally, potatoes should be kept in an environment around 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit. They can be stored in bins, boxes, or even paper bags – just nothing air tight to prevent rotting. And, don’t store with apples – the ethylene gas will cause the potatoes to spoil. In addition, they should never be stored in the refrigerator. So many potatoes – I can’t wait to try them all.