in the garden: potatoes




The garden has faded into its late summer nearly-nothingness.  We’ve been in desperate need of water, but got a good shower yesterday.  Hopefully, we’ll have a few more this week.  And, I love the flowers of late summer which are starting to show now.

Cucumbers are done, beans are done, winter squash is just about done.  It’s too hot for lettuces, spinach, and most greens.  There are a few watermelons that are ripening now and I need to check on them often.  I brought one inside because the vine had died, and I thought it would be a pale, tasteless thing.  But, it surprised me and was ripe and delicious.  I brought it inside in late afternoon and I’m not sure I’d ever before eaten a warm watermelon!

The tomatoes, which have done well, and we have eaten nearly everyday, fresh, in salads, on sandwiches, and on pasta – well, they now have late blight and are rapidly fading.  The only plants actively still growing and producing are the hot peppers (and one sweet pepper) and the okra – and the weeds too, but let’s just ignore them for now.  Funnily, the biggest space in the garden that looks the dead-est is the potato patch, which is also producing the most food from the garden right now.  I am harvesting large amounts of potatoes each day as I am clearing out rows to grow fall crops (collards, kale, beets, and some carrots have gone in the last few days) – about a bushel today.

I start craving potatoes in April, just when they are pushing up green and bushy from the ground.  After I’ve waited for 3 weeks for them to come up because I never remember to pre-sprout them and am too anxious to get them in the garden as soon as possible.  But, we don’t get to eat any until late May or early June.  Then, just a few small new potatoes, which are tender and nearly sweet.  Now, though, we have so many potatoes that I feel I need to cook at least a few pounds for supper each night.

A friend visiting our garden in early summer commented, “That’s a lot of food right there.” when he saw our potato patch.  He was comparing it to his 10’x10′ garden with a few lettuce and tomato plants and herbs.  Just now though, I am think it an apt description of it – it is a lot of food.  Those potatoes will fill us up for most of the fall and right into the winter (maybe even through most of the winter).

We grew 5 varieties this year. Ordered from Fedco Seeds (their Best Keepers mix), I think they were Elba, Red Pontiac (my favorite red – so round and large), Cheiftan (did not like as much), Katahdin (had lots of disease), and Russet Burbank.  I also planted a fingerling (Banana).  I have come to realize that while a darling in the foodie world, I don’t really like fingerlings much.  They are ok, and sometimes great, but I prefer the less dense flesh of “regular” potatoes, which I also find easier to cook.

But, with so many potatoes, I am currently feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount and hence not sure what to cook.  You can only have roasted potatoes so many times per week.  So, I am going to write out some of our favorite things to make from potatoes – hoping to keep me motivated to keep using them:

  • Smitten Kitchen’s baked potato crisps with the works (potatoes, sour cream, bacon – so good), from the book
  • Roasted potatoes made with the method of parboiling them first, then putting them on a baking sheet with hot oil and roasting in a hot oven (a technique Smitten Kitchen also uses to make fries)
  • mashed potatoes with browned butter (a whole stick!)
  • latkes (or as we call them, potato cakes – BTW, I am totally a Smitten Kitchen fan)
  • frittatas – and adding herbs, variety of cheeses, and/or chopped greens and onions or garlic
  • gratin – also love to add lots of extra stuff to it from winter squash, to herbs, to bacon (and cheese of course)

I think I’ve come up with a few meals that will work for us here, and some I will use over and over because they are so delicious and everyone loves them (the first, in particular).

Any other really great meals that use lots of potatoes (and that kids will like, and that don’t take too long to prepare)?  I tried gnocchi last year, but gave up until my brother can give me lesson.


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