Tag Archives: potato

2011 Spuds: Seed potato shopping!

It’s that time of year. I bought seed potatoes. In the past, I went to Black Lake Organic for seed potatoes. Good prices, good selection, all organic, what more could I want? But BLO is shifting their focus and they no longer carry seed potatoes. So now I drive to Yelm to visit Gordon’s Nursery. It’s kind of a haul for potatoes, but I like shopping there. They have many varieties of organic seed potatoes and I can usually justify buying “just one more” blueberry or huckleberry or strawberry. I brought home six varieties of potatoes this year, but I could have bought a lot more.

I picked three full size potatoes: Cal White (early), Viking Purple (mid-season), and German Butterball (mid-season). I have grown Cal’s in the past and I loved them. I picked the Viking Purples because I try to grow a purple potato each year, and they are scab resistant. I picked German Butterballs because they’re prolific & delicious & our teenage German Student child loves most German food, like beer and sausage, at least in theory.

Krista loves to cook with fingerling potatoes. We prioritize growing them because organic fingerlings cost a small fortune. I picked up three fingerling varieties: French Fingerling, which we grew last year and loved, Russian Banana, another beloved 2010 spud, and Princess La Ratte. A lot of people love La Ratte potatoes in the PNW. I have never grown the Princess because it’s such a pretentious name for a potato, but I thought maybe 2011 is the year for a pretentious potato.

Last year we grew potatoes in wooden stacks that Krista built. I also grew some fingerlings in re-purposed burlap bags from a local coffee roastery a la Sustainable Eats. The year before that, we grew potatoes in recycled tires. I’ve discussed why we switched to wooden stacks. Although I was happy with the yield of both tires & wood boxes, the stacks had better drainage and were easier to manage. It’s difficult to compare my results from each method because there were many variables: temperature, water, different soil, different microclimate and so many potato varieties. So when people ask how I recommend growing potatoes in small spaces on small budgets, I don’t have enough information to answer them as effectively as I’d like.

Fortunately, Organic Gardening Magazine did some fieldwork for me. This article is long over-due in my opinion, and I couldn’t be happier that they wrote it. O.G. found that growing in the field (hill/mound method) is good enough, as potato farmers from centuries ago could have told you. But not all of us have that much space. Growing in raised beds is more productive than a field of hills, but requires a lot of dirt. Growing in wooden stacks is as good as raised beds, but energy-intensive to start. Growing in wire cylinders, grow bags, trash bags and straw are less ideal for reasons like yield, drainage, moisture, pests and cost. I want to see more data about with which varieties respond best to aggressive hilling (or stacking). Growing varieties that respond well to aggressive hilling is crucial to produce a lot of food in a small space. You might notice I’m not growing Yukon Golds this year, even though we love to eat them. They don’t respond well to being buried. Also, some methods will inevitably work better in different areas than others, adjusting for issues like drainage, temperatures & soil quality. But the Organic Gardening article is a big step in the right direction. Growing potatoes is such an experiment. I love the resourceful, creative ways people try to produce such a humble food.

Considering the Organic Gardening findings and the resources we’ve already sunk into the stacks, we will be growing potatoes in our wooden stacks again this year. Honestly, I have to grow potatoes in these stacks for years to make them cost-effective and I really enjoy using them, so I would use them no matter what Organic Gardening said. It’s convenient that I happen to love them.

I admit that if I see organic seed potatoes around town in the next few weeks, I will pick up a few more lbs. I can’t really help myself. Homegrown potatoes are worlds and epic legions better than potatoes from the store. I love growing & eating potatoes, but they are also an important crop. Potatoes are probably the best way to grow the most calories in the smallest amount of space. I don’t foresee my family adopting a 1-block diet, but the more calories we get from our yard the better, especially mashed, baked, french fried and roasted.


Filed under garden, spring, urban farming

potato + artichoke = tacos

We love tacos around here, but I’m trying to mix it up. Really, you can put just about anything inside corn tortillas: tofu, grilled pineapple, scrambled eggs, mushrooms, you name it. So here you have potato + artichoke heart tacos. Levi dubbed them “awesome,” so I think we’ll make them again. Probably after I get over this trying out new things in tacos kick.

potato, artichoke & cannellini tacos

corn tortillas
yukon gold potatoes
quartered artichoke hearts
cannellini beans
olive oil
Adobo seasoning
smoked paprika
lime juice

cotija (oops, not pictured)

Just chop the potatoes into taco sized pieces and toss lightly with olive oil. Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet with some sort of protection – silpat mat or foil. Then sprinkle generously with Adobo, cumin, and a little smoked paprika. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees, flipping over half way through.

Meanwhile, toss the beans in lime juice. I’d throw in some cilantro if I wasn’t surrounded by cilantro haters. Lightly drizzle the artichoke hearts with olive oil. As soon as the potatoes are done, put the artichokes under the broiler just until lightly browned.

Warm your corn tortillas (here are some corn tortilla warming pointers from epicurious), pile on the fillings and garnishes, and enjoy.

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As I mentioned previously, we bought a lot of seed potatoes this year. And our plan was to build potato stacks to grow them in, instead of the tires we grew the taters in last year. In case you’re new to our madness, we’re trying to maximize potato production on our small urban lot. Potatoes are one of the best ways to grow calories on your land if you have a small space. Also, potatoes are awesome, delicious, versatile, and store for longer than, say, juicy heirloom tomatoes.

Here it is, first week of May and my potatoes are still chitting in the kitchen windowsill, far away from dirt and the potato stacks were still just piles of lumber, scribbled diagrams on scrap paper, and a handful of dreams.

This is a great example of how much better we really are as a pair than I could ever be individually. My wonderful, newly self-taught carpenter spouse spent her weekend in the garage, bringing together the potato stacks. And it was like a miracle to see them go from a stack of boards directly into the form we’d dreamed up months ago, before the potatoes sprouted and before she knew how to use a table saw.

Aren’t they lovely? The corner posts are fir 2×2’s, the slats are cedar fence boards cut to length. The bottom level is stationary, and all the upper boxes slide on as the potato grows, and off as it’s time to harvest. Then, before the sun set on us, we planted one full of organic seed potatoes. Working full time in an office while you’re trying to grow your sub-compact farm means you’re always racing the sunset to get the potatoes planted. Here’s an All Blue potato getting ready to be buried.

And here’s the stack with one level, planted with yukon golds, cal reds and all blues. They are all mid-season potatoes. My dream is that the day we harvest this stack will be the day we eat multicolored potato salad.

Hopefully within the next few days we can get the rest of the potatoes into the ground, and eventually we can host a potato harvest festival with garlic mashed potatoes, chipotle mashed potatoes, vegan sheppards pie, rosemary roasted breakfast potatoes, potato tacos, latkes, pierogies, baked french fries, potato salad. My fingers are crossed.


Filed under food, garden, spring, urban farming

sneak peek

we have a lot of bounty to talk to you about. hopefully tonight we can play catch up! in the meantime, here is a breakfast ingredient from our backyard.

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