Abundance and potatoes

Posted by Jenni

You know, I’m not the kind of person who stops functioning when it’s cold. My person gets cold – layers are one of my survival techniques – but I don’t get depressed when we have weeks and weeks of rain. Which is really lucky thing since I live where I do.

But even though I’m not emotionally dependent on the weather, or maybe because of it, I’m also not drawn outside when it’s sunny like some people are, as if there’s a magnet the size of the sky screaming, “Come out and PLAY!” I’m just not. In fact, I (weirdly) feel compelled to do a deep clean of the house whenever the sun starts to shine.

So now we’re on the cusp of school starting and fall things happening and, even in this glorious weather, I’m having to remind myself to write outside if I have to be at the computer, get the bikes out of the garage, water the garden.

Which is maybe why I didn’t even think about harvesting my potatoes until about a week ago. We were traveling and then I came home to deadlines and a long list of things to do. Plus, we were already eating our fill of potatoes from our farm share.

This year, I grew them for the very first time and was amazed to see how potatoes grow, in strings under the ground, one after the other, like little starchy sausages. At least it looked like they used to all be attached. By the time we rummaged through the earth with our trowels and gardening gloves, the individual potatoes were afloat in the earthy soup of the soil around them.

I planted the seed potatoes whole, deep in one of the raised beds at the side of the house and forgot about them. Partway through the summer, a friend told me you’re supposed to “earth up” potatoes, piling dirt on top of the green plants, allowing just the top leaves to be exposed. When I read a how-to guide online and looked at my long, spindly potato plants, their many leaves open in a tryst of photosynthesis with the sun, I panicked and posted a cry for help on Facebook. My botanist and gardener friends rescued me. It’s okay to cover them up now, they said. It’s not too late.

When a magnanimous chicken-keeping neighbor sent me home with a giant bag of straw, I piled it on top of the plants and pushed it around the long stems until I couldn’t see anything but their very top leaves. Now I really could water and forget about them. And I could stop worrying that I’d end up harvesting toxic, green potatoes.

Last weekend I noticed that my potato plants had died back. The kids and I pulled out a box, ran out to the garden (they really ran!) and started digging. The big miracle was this: they were there. Not enough to get us through the winter, mind you (we harvested enough to last two or three meals, tops). But still. We planted and piled on straw and pinched off the flowers and watered and here were these perfect fingerling potatoes just ready to be eaten, waiting in the dirt to be uncovered.

In this post I read that the tougher potatoes, such as russets (not new potatoes or fingerlings) can be left to dry completely on the counter and stored in a cool place in a paper bag. The potatoes from our share are still a little damp in the fridge in their plastic produce bags so now I’ll go tend to them, to see how long we can stretch out this abundance pouring in from the land.

To tide you over until Thursday, here is a delicious collection of potato recipes from Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite food blogs, because I imagine you have as many potatoes multiplying at home as I do. And if you don’t, go get some from a local farmer if you can. Really, the texture is so much crisper than typical store-bought potatoes, it’s worth the extra trip to the market if you can find them.

See you in a few days!

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