"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Harvesting Potatoes

The weather has been surprisingly nice this past couple weeks, perhaps we will have an extended summer after all. Our potatoes have been harvested and we are quite content with this year's crop. Diversity in the potato patch, seemingly, once again played an important role. Some of the varieties that did great last year not so much this year and vice versa but in the end we were provided another fine harvest.

A fellow gardener talked about a method of planting potatoes that did not involve any hilling. I happily followed suit, planting our potatoes in a similar manner by digging them in deeply atop loose soil in an effort to avoid having to hill the dirt around them as they grew. While the amount harvested was not dramatically different I did notice that for the first time ever we had absolutely no issues with the scab that so often affects our purples and blues. This was perhaps due to the fact that the potatoes received a more adequate water supply, the rows were not nearly as mounded and less water was wasted due to runoff.

Speaking of scab, because we use our own potatoes for seed I am always on the lookout for any buildup of viruses and diseases related to this endeavour...so far so good and we have been doing this for quite a few years now. I am very careful to rotate our potato crop and only select the very best looking spuds for re-seeding purposes. I would imagine that people of old, from the Indians of South America to the settlers of North America, saved their own seed potatoes in a similar manner.

Actually, besides our russet varieties and Yukon Gold that never do that great (but I like the way they taste) the only potatoes that performed poorly were the two new "purchased" varieties that we tried this season. Red Viking and Shepody were both nice looking potatoes but only provided a few spuds per plant.

The potatoes in boxes will be used to plant next year's crop.

Potatoes are pulled in late September early October before it gets too cold and rainy out. Each row has a stake at the beginning with a bunch of tags attached to it with the varieties labeled in the order planted, this way I can keep track of all the different types. For the most part I know what everything is but I do tend to get the red potatoes mixed up in my head sometimes so the tags are of great benefit. Once dug we separate some of the nicest ones to be used for next year's seed. The rest are laid out on a tarp in the root cellar where they will remain until needed and if I am diligent in keeping any spring sprouts cut back they will remain edible and of good quality for a very long time. Below I have included pictures of a few of the many varieties we grew this year.

Some of the purple Peruvians were quite large this year.

This picture depicts two plants worth of Shepody, nice potatoes but not very numerous.

La Ratte has performed well for us the past two years.

Huckleberry is my wife's favorite potato, they are pink inside.

Russian Banana is one of the first "unusual" varieties I ever grew.

We have been growing this variety and saving seed for so long that I call them Mike's purple just to keep them separated from the other purple varieties I grow.

Anna Cheeka Ozette was originally brought from Peru in the 1700's by Spanish explorers to the Makah Indians at Neah Bay on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, where they still grow them today.

Yellow Finn is a nice producer that we have only been growing for a couple years now, they are yellow inside.

Austrian Crescent is another fine fingerling.

French Fingerling, one of my all around favorites.

"O Creator! Thou who givest life to all things and hast made men that they may live, and multiply. Multiply also the fruits of the earth, the potatoes and other food that thou hast made, that men may not suffer from hunger and misery." - Inca Prayer


Ohiofarmgirl said...

Its amazing! The number of varieties you have is incredible! We only get the old stand-by's here.. but who doesnt love a yukon gold? I love fingerling 'taters but the shipping to get the seed spuds is ridiculous. Besides, I know a farm market pal who gave me about 100 pounds of seed potatoes for free last year.

Do you know the old timer's method of just digging a shallow trench and then deeply mulching with fresh straw? Just keep throwing on the straw instead of hilling. I still cant believe it works. But it does.

Great work on the taters and wonderful pix of all!

Silke said...

Oh, Mr. H., I am drooling onto my keyboard. I am an absolute potato fan and addict (what can I say - it's the German in me) and seeing so many different kinds all together has me purple with potato envy. Enjoy a few for me!! :-) Silke

Mr. H. said...

Ohio - It must be some sort of strange personality quirk or something but I just love growing, seeing, and eating all of the varieties of everything that I can manage.:)

The only problem in our area with mulching potatoes like that is that the slugs seem to get at them. Perhaps I will give it another try sometime in a different location.

Silke - And I'm Irish, so of course I have to like potatoes just a bit you know.:) I will enjoy a mehlig kochend (mealy) blue potato for you, they are some of my favorites..probably because I have to add so much butter to make them taste good.:)

meemsnyc said...

O M G!! I'm loving all the potatoes you are growing! Fantastic!! You have so many potatoes, you can totally do a potato and leek soup. BTW, I adjusted the recipe I posted. I think 1 tsp of salt is sufficient, since the butter and chicken stock I use is salted and 1 1/2 tsp seemed way too salty. I recommend starting off with 3/4 tsp then gradually add more salt to taste.

I'm loving all your varieties! In our garden we only grew white potatoes, reds, and Yukon gold. I don't knew what the variety of white or red they were, as they came from the family farm and I forgot to ask. We had a dismal harvest this year at our garden, not enough rain and too much sun. Next year, raised beds!!

Geno said...

Wow! Looks like you got a nice harvest. Your blog has been very inspiring for us. Keep it up! And if you ever need a helping hand..., well just let me know!

Anonymous said...

I didn't grow any potatoes this year. After seeing all these pictures I will definitely try several varieties next year.
Do you get any potato beetles on them? We have here a lot of potato beetles, but I have read that if I put some stinging nettle around potatoes, then beetles will not go near it. It stings them.

Mr. H. said...

Meemsnyc - I think we are going to make some potato soup this week, maybe even tonight if we have time.:) Too bad about your potato harvest, with any luck next year will be much better one for potatoes in the garden.

Geno - Thanks, it was a pretty good year for potatoes and I'm glad we have them all dug up and put away as it is pretty rainy and sloppy out there today. You are probably getting the same weather. It should be snowing in the mountains around your area pretty soon.

Vrtlarica - So far we have never had an issue with potato beetles. Our potato nemesis is the white fly and they never showed up this year...lucky us. I love the idea of growing stinging nettle in your potato patch. We harvested a whole lot of nettle from the wild this year and have been adding it to our morning tea. What a wonderful plant nettle is, the more we look into it the more fascinating things we uncover about it.

kitsapFG said...

There is something really satisfying about bringing in the potato harvest each year. Your harvest was beautiful, varied, and abundant - well done!

I too save my seed stock from year to year but I had to actually buy all new seed stock in 2010 because we had late blight in the garden the year before and the potatoes did get it. Luckily, we did not have a repeat and I was able to once again save my seed stock this year.

Heiko said...

Like all root crops potatoes don't do that well with me. Never enough to feed us for the winter. I don't mind the hilling up as I get rid of the rampant weeds at the same time. I tend to use potatoes as introductory crop on terraces that have previously only had weeds on it.

I have so far never used actual seed potatoes, but just ordinary bought spuds. Maybe I should get myself a few proven varieties to have a good breeding stock. Well done on all those lovely spuds!

johnnydesoto said...

Beautiful crop. Potatoes seem to favor cool rainy summers. Such a variety. Have you ever seen Bizarre foods with Andrew Zimmern? He did a program about Bolivia and visited with a potato farmer there. They preserve their potatoes by leaving them out several nights to sort of freeze dry them. They then rub the skins off with their feet and dry them. These are added to soups and stews. Fascinating. Here's a link:


I was pleased with my potatoes this year after planting from my store. I may try to keep them going after reading how you've managed to save seed. I've also seen a method for scab control that looks interesting:


Sense of Home said...

So many varieties of potatoes I have never seen, heard of, or tasted.

I thinking since so many red potatoes are grown in our area, maybe I should plant potatoes I have never heard tried before, and buy my reds at the market, hmmm...

You got me to thinking again.


Mr. H. said...

Laura - All of the potatoes, especially the fingerlings, liked the planting method you suggested. So, since we both planted this way and had a good harvest (you had a great harvest) I would say that your idea was a really good one.:) I will be planting my potatoes the same way next year.

Heiko - Those Yellow Finn potatoes in the picture were ordinary store bought potatoes a couple years ago and have done really well for us the past couple years. But yes, some varieties of potatoes do better in some locations. We never have a very good harvest with Yukon gold or russet potatoes...they just don't like growing in our garden, not sure why.

Johnny - That was a very interesting video on chunos, I have never heard of that before. I can't quite fathom how a potato like that would taste but it would be very unusual...probably quite good. I wish I could try that but unfortunately I think they have a bit more wind and sun to help with the freeze drying process.

Even if we chose not to grow potatoes from our own stock it is good to know that we can do it that way with good results if we had to. Thanks for the links, I really enjoyed them.

Brenda - Variety does make it more interesting and the potatoes really do have different flavors. Besides, who wouldn't want to eat a big bowl of blue mashed potatoes.:)

Ms. Adventuress said...

Thank you so much for having/sharing your blog - for showing us such wonderful details about growing your own food. LOVE this!

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Wow. I am utterly stunt to see your harvest. It is so amazing and many varities as well you have there. They all look so good and healthy to eat.

Mr. H. said...

Ms. Adventuress - Thank you for stopping in for a visit, I'm glad to hear that you found our little blog interesting.:)

Malay-Kadazan girl - Thank you, it is fun to grow such a large variety and I do think that all of the colors make for a very healthy bunch of potatoes.:)

Leigh said...

Wow, diversity is right. Beautiful! I think I should follow your lead next year and try planting a variety of varieties.

Thank you for the link to the planting method. I did the conventional trenches this year, but am willing to try anything to improve the health and outcome of my potatoes.

Good news too, on your planting your own seed potatoes. Very encouraging for the rest of us aiming at potato self-perpetuation.

Oxray Farm said...

Wow! I haven't harvested my spuds yet but soon. It's one of the things on the never ending garden to do list. We grew carola, all blue, and Russian banana. I can't wait to see which one performs best. Thanks for the pictures of each variety it will help when planning next year's spud harvest.

Amy Manning said...

I harvested my potatoes! Check out the winners and losers if you like. http://amysoddities.blogspot.com/2010/10/this-years-potato-harvest.html

Ms. Adventuress said...

And thank you so much for your comment on my site...I completely agree...simple living and growing/eating ones own food is absolutely healing (I dream about and remember doing so as a child...and need to figure out how to do so again). Thank you both, for being here to educate us...and for role modeling such love for you little grandson. Well done.

Anonymous said...

Great harvest and spud diversity! Do you eat each variety in specific ways?

We've replaced Yukon Gold on our farm with Provento - tastes as great but no hollow hearts and better yield.


Mr. H. said...

Leigh - When I first started saving my own seed potatoes I only tried it with a few for the first couple years just to make sure it would work and I would not end up with a bunch of diseased plants. So far we are very happy with the results and it is good to know that one can get away with saving their own seeed in this manner.

I really liked the new planting method and will be using it again next season.

Oxray Farm - I love the All Blue and Russian Bannana varieties but have never grown carola before, I'll have to look that one up. Just wait until you try and serve that first bowl of blue mashed potatoes to a guest, for some reason that is a very hard color for people to get used to eating.:)

Amy - I am looking forward to seeing your spuds.:)

Ms. Adventuress - Well you are certainly on the right track with the eating of good food, growing it just takes a little time, patience, and slow expansion.

Dan - It all depends upon what we are making. When I make a baked potato I am careful to enjoy each variety individually. If we fry them up I always choose a colorful variety to mix together. Purple Viking makes for a snow white potato salad.

I will have to check out provento, it is another variety I have not heard of....there are so many.

LynnS said...

Wonderful potato harvest and your variety is outstanding!! Homegrown potatoes can't be beat -- love the skins. We're having potatoes this evening (being part Irish and part German, go figure...).

Your Peruvians are very impressive.We only grew 4 basic varieties this year (no fingerlings), all from a local seller. With the drought and heat, I suppose that turned out best since our yield was not typical.

(I'm so behind on your blog!)

Mr. H. said...

Lynn - We do enjoy the variety, but yes, I suppose with such a dry year you made a good choice...next year is going to be better. We are supposed to experience a La Nina winter this year, I wonder what effect that will have on your area. The cool snowy winters almost always seem to make for a good summer growing season.

It's raining out here today and I am looking forward to spending some time inside canning. We/I will be working on ketchup...I think.

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