Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mr. Potato Head

Finally! Some potatoes went into the ground today. The smiley faced Mr. Potato Head is a basket of Russian Banana Fingerling potatoes.

Planting in containers is the only way I've found to foil the gophers who are capable of taking most of a crop. I think that is what must of happened to the Gro-Bed full of All Blue potatoes in 2008. Last year's crop consisted of the volunteer remnants which came up on their own, an unexpected treat, and provided enough to accessorize a couple of meals.

Usually we try to plant potatoes on or near St. Patrick's Day -- an old Irish custom so I'm told. In past years, when we planted by St. Patrick's Day we had ingredients for Fourth of July potato salad. Since our potato endeavors are strictly a boutique operation, usually there's enough for a good-sized salad but not much more.

My brother back in Virginia, who is a farmer at heart although he too has only his yard, sent me some photos of his potato patch last year: a long lush row of perfectly hilled plants, complete with tiny granddaughter and friend digging out the treasure trove.

So far this year we have the basket of Russians and a container of Yukon Golds. They came from David Baldwin at Natural Gardening, who is always a pleasure to buy from and is about as local as you can get -- although it's a national mail-order company. (I always feel pleased when I plan ahead enough to actually order something on time.)

And potatoes are so much fun to grow. I like every stage of the process. Burying the seed potatoes like secret treasure, waiting for the first sturdy shoots, covering the stems with successive layers of compost and straw, enjoying the flowers, and at last the payoff: groping around in the dark, rich soil for the satisfyingly solid, rounded spuds.

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