Tag Archives: potatoes

in the garden: potatoes

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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.

 

in the garden

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We had really hot weather two weeks ago and we went away for the weekend, coming back to a garden loaded with things to harvest.  This past week has been cooler, but everything is still producing.

  • The green beans are nearly done (second planting is coming along). Lots of bean leaf beetles  on them.
  • Blackraspberries are done (such a short season).
  • The blueberries are still producing strong.
  • I am harvesting cucumbers everyday, but have yet to can pickles.  I love having them in the winter, but we do eat a lot of fresh cucumbers – in salads, mainly.  I have not had quite enough to pickle – maybe next week.
  • The first tomatoes were harvested (and eaten quickly).  No more have ripened since, and I’m thinking its because of the cooler weather this week.
  • The winter squash and watermelons are taking over the garden.  I’ve seen on ripe butternut already, which seems way to early, but probably not.
  • The potatoes are delicious.  I’ve harvested some of three varieties  One variety of red potato has lots of scab and so is not very pretty.  The fingerlings have been wonderful – as have the Kennebecks (my favorite, I think).
  • We are also harvesting mulberries, but only a few at a time – which either get eaten all up, or go in the freezer with blueberries or black raspberries.  The kids love to eat them (and climb the tree to harvest them).  They will keep going for a while.
  • The first zinnias have been picked (dalias, too).  The yarrow and alliums and dill are so pretty together.

I’ve definitely got some weeds (mostly grass weeds, which I hate most).  And, my 2nd beet planting failed.  I think I will try again in August when I do the fall planting.  I would love to have some more beets, since I think I only harvested 3 or 4.

What’s going on in your garden?

in the garden 6-4-15

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Everything in the garden is growing like crazy.  The potatoes look really great, but there are still some potato bugs (Colorado Potato Beetle) on them, so Hythe has been helping me pick them off every other day.  He likes to drown them (rather than smash), and I agree – they can be a little gross to smush.  I am now working to get the potatoes mulched with straw.  I am half-way there and will finish this weekend, I hope.  The straw fills in for the second potato hilling and works quite well.   I love the potato blossoms.  They are so pretty, and with five different varieties, each flower is a little different in color.  I told Hythe we could start getting some potatoes from the ground when they starting flowering, so he has been reporting to me each time a variety starts to flower.  I have only dug a few little baby potatoes, though – they still need some time.  It is a pretty time in the garden.

The snap (or English) peas are producing lots and lots of peas right now.  We’ve been picking (and eating) every other day.  I have a stock pile in the refrigerator for lunches and snacks.  I will try to freeze some tomorrow because we finally have grown enough that I can feed everyone who wants peas, and have some left over.  My family far prefers to eat the peas raw, and they end up on plates and in lunch boxes in the pod to be split open and snacked on during the day.  I have also been shelling and throwing them into salads and soups every chance I get.

Lettuces are still growing, though some are starting to bolt.  I need to do my “next” sowing of lettuces, carrots, beets, and beans.  Maybe this weekend.

The squash and watermelon are growing well and are all now mulched with straw.  I hope to have zucchini soon.  The beans are getting ready to flower and the okra is about 3 inches tall now.

And, we have (or had) cherries.  Lots of cherries, so many we could not possible pick them all.  Plus, they were at the top of some tall-ish trees and we could not reach them all.  Nor, would I have had the time to pit them all.  But, we did get a couple of gallons.  We ate lots fresh, then I pitted a lot and made jam, a pie, and froze the rest.  While I love cherries, I am ok with the season being short.  We’ve had so much rain that the over-ripe ones in the tree are mostly split and moldy now.  I am grateful for all the fruit we have.  Strawberries are just finishing, cherries have come and are nearly gone, but while we were getting the last of the cherries tonight, Evva came up to me with the first black raspberry!  And, soon there will be blueberries.  And, the boys have been finding some ripe mulberries.  So glad to have all this fruit!

The garden work is continuous, and for now, still enjoyable.  Hythe enjoys helping me, and I love it when William joins me in the garden to pick or mulch or weed.  The girls have not been so enthusiastic.  Well, they are enthusiastic about the theory of a garden, but not in practicality of it.  They cheer on the great food coming from the garden, but rarely participate in the work.  I should probably encourage them more, but I don’t want to nag.  And, they often have their own passions and interests they want to pursue while I pursue my in the garden.  But, I came home from a run last weekend to find William had set up Anne with the weed wacker and she cut all the weeds around the garden and near our house.  She had fun and felt grown-up and useful.  It was wild to see her from a distance as I came home from my run, wondering who the teenage boy (or old man?) was who was weed wacking our garden, only to realize it was Anne.  Looking strong and capable.   While I never would have set her up with that machine (I can barely run it myself), I was glad William had.

in the garden

We have been very dry here for nearly 3 weeks, until yesterday when a glorious long, not-too-intense rain fell.  It has made all the difference.  And, more rain is expected for the rest of the week.  Most of these pictures are from just before the rain.  All of a sudden the peas have started to fill out, the fava beans are ready to pick, and the potatoes are thankfully so much easier to hill.

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The peas grew what seems like 6 inches while I was away on a retreat last week.  This week they are filling out those pods, and Hythe and I picked enough for the him and his siblings to eat for supper last night.  Such a treat!

The potatoes also shot up in the last week, and I have been trying to get them all hilled.  Since it is a bit of a tough job, I usually do one row a day, but with the dry soil, it was even more physically challenging.  I got the last row and a half done after it rained yesterday.  Next job is to mulch them all with straw to make up for the less than adequate hilling (they really need to be hilled twice, and I always plant too close together to get 2 good hilling jobs done – but I get more potatoes per area and I’ll make up for it with the straw).  We also have potato beetles, but Hythe and Steven and I go out and pick them off and drown them.  The boys love to do it and take the job very seriously.

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All the spinach is done now.  The warm weather caused it to start bolting. I got a last big harvest which I froze and will soon put that area into snap beans.

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The walking onions are starting to walk.  They are not so good to eat right now (as they are mostly stems putting up flowers), but I’ll have a few windows to get them while the new ones are young.  Their shapes are so interesting and beautiful.

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I couldn’t believe I already had a few large-ish green tomatoes on a few of the plants.  But, I imagine they will stay green for a long time.  For some reason they do that here in the mountains.  I am staking them differently than I have in the past years.  I’m going back to my favorite method after trying lots of different ones.  With this one, I stake each plant, tie it with old sheets, and prune suckers fairly heavily.  I usually end up with one or two main branches, less disease, and lots of tomatoes.   We’ll see how it goes this year!

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What’s going on in your garden?

in the garden

I’ve been picking lettuce and spinach for a few weeks now and it is just perfect to have those fresh greens nearly everyday for supper.  One day this week, William came down to the garden with me and said, “that lettuce looks about ready to pick.”  He did not realize that we’d been eating it for a few weeks already, thinking that I was getting the greens from his sister’s farm down the road.  He was very impressed.  I love lettuces and greens and just put in another sowing.  Actually, Hythe put in this last sowing, insisting that he needed to plant something and coming down to the garden with two packs of seeds – one of cilantro and one of lettuce.  So, I let him plant them.

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The potatoes are coming up!  All but one varieties which is a little late.  I also planted tomatoes and will put in the peppers this week, I think.  It is getting warm enough and looks like it will stay warm enough.  Tomato varieties planted: Sungold Cherry, another cherry I can’t remember because but I got at Flying Cloud Farm, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, a pink tomato, and Paul Robeson.

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The fava beans are blooming and the peas are climbing.  The walking onions are starting to make their sets.  I love the funky shapes and lines they make when they are doing this.  It is beautiful.

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And, some of my favorite flowers are blooming: the yellow iris in our wetland spring area and the Babtisia (‘Carolina Moon’).

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what’s growing

The garden is growing.  Peas are starting to creep up the trellis, fava beans are almost 8 inches high.  We are picking lettuce and spinach to eat now which is such a treat.  We are also pulling up some of the walking onions to eat.  They are so pretty this time of year – and also delicious.  The regular onions (Parma) are growing quickly too. I planted potatoes two weeks ago tomorrow.  We got a good bit of rain since then and some warm weather.  I dug up one of the potatoes yesterday to see how they were growing and was disappointed to see the little buds only about a 1/2 inch long.  So, they are growing slowly right now and I have to keep up with those very fast growing weeds until they do pop out of the ground.  By the way, I planted my potatoes with a little compost and organic fertilizer.  Anybody have any good potato growing tips?  And, yes that is a basketball in the garden.  The garden is downhill from the house and basketball goal, so this is where balls end up sometimes.

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The trees are growing leaves!  This is my favorite part of spring.  Dogwoods are in full bloom and the trees on the mountain have a more subdued color autumnal cast.  Almost the reverse of fall, as a dull rust gives way to light greenish yellow then to spring green then to dark green – day by day marching up the mountain.  We have some black gum trees around the house, and this under-appreciated tree is one of my favorites.  In the spring, it puts out its tiny leaves, pointing them strait to the sky in little clumps so that they look like tiny green stars.  Unlike most trees, black gum branches set out from the trunk at 90 degree angles (for the most part), so those tiny stars are perfectly placed to look like celestial bodies held out over the earth.  This week, the black gum leaves have grown a bit more and little flowers are being set.

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And, the children are growing.  Anne is determined to ride horses as often as possible, loves playing soccer, and her excitable spirit is sometimes challenging.  Like the other Anne (of Green Gables) she has high highs and low lows, but she recovers quickly.  Her joys and sorrows and angers run hot and fast.  Evva, due to a small scare last week, seems a little more precious right now.  She is reveling in the spring flowers and growth, and is outside as much as she can be – making fairy houses, decorations, and soil/flower mandalas.  Hythe, like a stereotypical boy, wants to go fishing, dig for worms in the compost, and sled down piles of manure at the farm (he and his cousin call it “poop sledding”).  In other words, he likes getting as dirty and smelly as possible.  Steven wants to do anything his brother is doing, but also wants to go anywhere anyone else is going; “I go too” he is always saying as he runs for the door.  He is talking so much now and says cute things like “Sit a me, mom” (sit with me, mom) or “I go fishing now”.  He also says, “go way, mom, go way!” when he is thinking of doing something that might get him in trouble.  Spying a bag of chocolate chips on the counter, he glances at me, back at the chips, then looks at me and says “go way, mom!”  He is still making big messes in and out of the house while becoming more capable!  Yesterday he dumped William’s tackle box upside down and took all the tube worms out of their bags.  I came home last night to find he had dumped three entire jars of spices into a pan on the stove (garlic powder, dill weed, and cream of tarter – yuck!).  That meant he opened the spice drawer, picked out the jars, took them over to the stove, climbed on the stool, unscrewed the caps, and dumped them out.  Quite capable.  He got so tired the other day, that he fell asleep sitting up while we were watching  a video of Dado talking about WWII.  It was pretty funny and cute.  While they all have their challenging moments, they are fun, loving children, and it is a joy to see them grow.
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garden update: pumpkins and potatoes

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No major changes in the garden lately, though we’ve picked a few more pumpkins. Unfortunately, two of those pumpkins (big ones, too) were completely rotten. I was able to pick them up and throw them so they exploded. This was a very exciting event for Hythe. He loved the exploding pumpkins, and it was almost worth growing them for his reaction. We did get one which we carved into a jack-o-lantern and another which is in the root cellar, otherwise known as the well house.

All the potatoes are dugnow, and some more lettuce, arugula, and turnips were planted. Winter squash harvest is happening too, and most of this bounty is going in the root cellar for now.

We will be eating lots of potatoes and winter squash this fall and winter!

in the garden

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The first thing I did after pulling into the drive from our long trip and giving my husband a grateful-to-be-home-and-see-you-thanks-for-holding-down-the-fort hug (the little boys were asleep!), was head to the garden. I was excited to see how much it had grown over 11 days. The pumpkins and winter squash are thriving, the beans are producing, and the corn is over head-tall. The tomatoes needed tying up, the lettuce had bolted, and the garlic needed to be pulled. William did a great job taking care of things, but I feel great to be back overseeing things too. I planted the fifth sowing of beans before I left and they are up and growing, and we are harvesting a gallon of snap beans every other day. Lots going in the freezer. Hythe comes down to the garden with me to dig potatoes and to squish bean leaf beetles. We dig down around the potato plants to pull up those new potatoes, just enough for supper. I am excited about those pumpkins, too. I’ve never grown pumpkins, or at least not with any luck. These are looking good so far!

I’m glad to be back!

As a postscript, I will mention that William’s aunt and uncle with whom we visited in England had the most beautiful allotment (or community garden). I went over to see it a few times while we visited last week and was so impressed by the neatness, beauty, and massive amounts of food being produced. I am very sorry I did not take pictures to share, but each time I visited the allotment, I forgot my camera (and am not sure I would have been able to capture it well anyway). I love to see gardens where ever I am!

In the garden

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The garden is coming along. We planted pumpkins and winter squash this week. We’ve had a few evenings spent in the garden as a family–weeding, planting, racing through the potatoes, stomping on the onions (Steven). I love having small helpers in the garden. Then games in the grass after getting the garden work done.

The squash is coming along nicely. I haven’t had a good squash crop in years because I have not been diligent about picking off the insect pests (squash bug and borer). I may have succeeded this year, which means we are going to be flooded with squash for a while. I need to make a new bed for the walking onions. They are ready to “walk” to a new spot.

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The big garden

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The old, wilder garden

I am from where most of the potatoes that are commercially grown in NC are from, so we ate a lot of potatoes growing up. We would even glean the potato field by our house when I was little. My brother has a deep and abiding love for potatoes (especially mashed), but while I do like potatoes a lot, I am not quite so enamored. However, we planted about 5 different varieties of potatoes and I am very excited about new potatoes, I can nearly taste them. But, the only ones I found were about the size of a dime. Few more weeks . . . .

The larkspur is blooming and we are eating the few sour cherries on the little tree. Steven diverted from his normal diet of nuts and crackers to eat one. I think he really liked it!

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in the garden

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This week, my only peony (dug from my grandmother’s garden) bloomed beautifully. I (and now the children) have been waiting for this for a few years, and anticipation grew as, over the last few weeks, the bud got bigger and bigger until finally (and quite quickly) it opened into full bloom. Watching the ants work on the buds has been fun. Evva cut one bloom for the table in the house, and Hythe picked the other which, disappointingly, wilted in a day. Now, we will wait until next year. But, maybe plant a few more of these in the fall so there are more blooms to go around!

We are getting lots of lettuce from the garden–so much so that I feel like I ought to be eating a large salad for every meal. Unfortunately, the children are not big fans of lettuce. Anne generally eats a salad by choice, but Evva and Hythe have to be strongly encouraged to try it. I have not been able to make a salad dressing that they like. Suggestions?

I have nearly gotten all the potatoes hilled in the large garden. I’ve got one more 1/2 row to do. I saw a potato bloom yesterday, so soon we will have new potatoes. There are a lot of potatoes out there.

Also beans are coming up and the squash is growing. Time to plant another row of beans. Cilantro is blooming (this is how I nearly always have cilantro–let it go to seed in the garden). Strawberries are getting picked and eaten (a garden chore the kids love to do, especially Evva). I got straw mulch on the tomatoes and squash this week, and need to clean out one more bed to put the new onion sets that are growing from the walking onions (don’t they look crazy?). I also want to plant some pumpkins.

Whew! It is a lot–lots to do, lots to eat, lots of fun to watch it grow.

How’s it growing in your garden?