There are about five thousand varieties of potatoes worldwide. Three thousand can be found in the Andes. Potatoes in America first traveled to Europe and then to America. In the first part of this century people worldwide consumed about 75 pounds of potatoes each year. Well, I didn’t.
We planted potatoes for the first time last year. In June the leaves seemed to be rather pale. An internet search suggested magnesium, so I blasted the plants with an Epsom Salts solution. Then I went out of town.
As time went by, I filled in the trench with compost. And watched the leaves continue to grow up and up. I had no idea when the potatoes were supposed to be harvested. My neighbor complained that her potatoes never bloomed. Mine never bloomed either. So we waited. For the blossoms. Supposedly the potatoes would be ready when the potatoes bloomed. Then one day, I plunged my hand into the fluffy compost around the potato plants, to check moisture levels. I hit a rather large rock. Well. That was no good. I thought I had cleaned out any large rocks. So I pulled it out of the soil, and there was a huge potato! Phooey on the blossom theory.
This year I bought the same varieties to plant. Chieftan is a red potato and the Yukon Gold is a yellow non-russeted variety. They did so well last year that I was sneaking bags of potatoes onto neighbors’ porches in the middle of the night.
Also, they didn’t keep well. I put them on plastic dollar store trays and stored them unwashed in the cold room. Our house was built by a couple of Norwegian boat builders. They included an unheated basement room, on the shady side of the house, with a screened hole to the outdoor air. We call it the cold room. Kind of like a root cellar, but without the dirt. The potatoes only lasted a couple of months before they started to sprout. I must have done something wrong. I’ll look it up this year.
The fabulous internet said to cut the seed potatoes in chunks containing at least a couple of eyes, then let them “scab” over for a couple of days. OK. Except that they were left to “scab” for four days before I could get them planted. It was raining. They were shriveled, but the tiny sprouts did seem to be ok. I’ve had potatoes grow in the compost pile, just from peelings. So they must be programmed to grow anywhere. Hopefully this delay won’t cause the dreaded Late Blight. The famous Irish potato famine was caused by late blight, a mold that caused the potatoes to shrivel into unedible problems. We’ll see.
So this year I planned to plant fewer potatoes. I dug the trenches and planted the cut potato seed on April 18, a few days earlier than last year. Now we wait. Unbelievably we may get frost tonight. Go, potatoes.
Here’s a great recipe for your potatoes.
Jan’s Bistro Chicken Casserole
Lay boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a lightly greased casserole.
Layer on chunks of potatoes (not russets), onions, celery and carrots.
Pour in a half cup of white wine.
Then, the secret part, add six sage leaves and a twig of rosemary. Grind over some sea salt and pepper.
Cover with casserole lid.
Bake at 350° until chicken is done.
This is good stuff. If eaters are going to be late because they missed the ferry, just turn the oven down to 200º until the crowd gathers. Put your feet up. Go watch Cash Cab. The potatoes will be just fine.