Our customers will eat most of the vegetables that we grow pretty soon after harvest. Greens like lettuce and kale, tomatoes, summer squash, and most of our other veggies will keep for two weeks at most in your fridge. In the winter, we’ll rely on root vegetables, which keep for much longer, for sustenance: carrots, parsnips, garlic, etc. And most importantly: potatoes.
That’s why the spring potato planting is a really, really big deal. If those potatoes do well, we’ll all have plenty to eat in the winter; potatoes can keep for months.
Last week, we put our potatoes in! It took a day and a half, with about 7 of us on the job. First, Rachel prepped about a half of an acre (1/3 of a football field) of empty field with the tractor, smoothing the bumpy soil over to create a flat surface in which to plant. Then she drove over the field again, this time using a tractor implement to draw furrows in the soil. We laid a tape measure next to the furrows, and planted a potato every foot.
That’s right: most farmers plant an actual potato, called a seed tuber, in the ground, rather than a potato seed. Potato seeds are a lot harder to grow; seed tubers are much more dependable. Plus, you can cut a seed tuber into pieces to multiply your number of plants. So long as each piece has an “eye,” or a little sprout, the piece will propagate potatoes when planted. You can plant any potato, so long as it’s sprouting. To sprout, or chit, your potato, just keep it around long enough to see those little eyes grow. Then plant it in the ground about 3 inches deep.
We’ll harvest our potatoes after the green foliage above ground has died– sometime in the early fall. We’ll dig beneath each plant to find a cluster of anywhere from 5 up to around 10 yummy potatoes. The seed tuber will still be there, but it will be mushy and goopy and gross. We’ll leave the seed tuber, and gather up the potatoes, and EAT THEM ALL!!! Just kidding, we’ll sell them. And eat some of them.
Potatoes are in the nightshade family (Solonaceae), which includes tomatoes, tobacco, peppers, and some very toxic plants like belladonna. The Soviet Union consumes the most potatoes per capita (no surprise there!). There used to be thousands of potato varieties; probably, there are around 5,000 out there now. They come in every color, and every shape in size.
One of my favorites is the Adirondack Red potato– rose pink on the inside, and red skinned, it is creamy and rich. I like to skin them, boil them, and mash them with olive oil, garlic salt, and parsley….. pink mashed potatoes!!! Delicious.
*Thanks to Claudia, who took the potato pictures!