Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Great Florida Potato Harvest

I've been eyeing up my potato plants recently and wondering if it's time to pull them out and see if there are any potatoes buried below. I'll admit that I had no clue what you're supposed to do with potato plants when they appear ready. I wasn't sure if they are the kind of plants that you keep in the ground to grow more once you harvest from it (like a tomato) or the kind of plant that you pull out to eat (like a radish or a carrot). Annie's Granny told me that a couple of weeks after a potato plant blooms, you can start poking around for potatoes. Or, she said, you can wait until the plant matures and dies off and get all the potatoes then. Well my plants had definitely matured because they were yellowed and drooping. So the decision was made for me.

I got the boys and told them we were going to plunge our hands into the soil and see what we came up with. That little boy of mine was instantly disgusted and left, but that big boy of mine was game and liked the idea of getting his hands really dirty.

We started digging and surprisingly enough we found potatoes. Last time we planted potatoes (in our regular garden - before we switched to a SFG) none of them grew. Well actually one of them grew, but I mistook it for a weed and pulled it up. So you can imagine how surprised we were when we kept finding potatoes on the ends of our plants this time around! It was like reaching into a grab bag with your eyes closed… you'd poke around until you found something and grab hold and pull it out and viola! - a tatery gift!

I had two squares of the SFG dedicated to potatoes and was really hoping to get at least a pound or two of potatoes. But every time we dug our hands into the ground, we came up with more and more potatoes. It was strangely exciting and surprising! That's the thing about growing potatoes. You see these plants growing above the surface and you have no idea what's going on below the soil. It could be feast or famine - there's no telling. Of course, I expect famine and am overjoyed when something actually grows as it's supposed to.

At the end of the day we ended up with 10 1/2 pounds of potatoes. Not bad for only two squares in my raised bed! I'm sure if I'd have known what I was doing, I could have reaped a better harvest by pulling out some potatoes every few days after the plant bloomed, but as we all know it's guesswork for me and I can't complain about 10 1/2 pounds of unskilled taters.

Now I just have to find out how to store them so they last longer because we surely can't find a way to cook that many potatoes in a week! We're low on root cellars here in Florida and really low on cool, dark places, so for now they're just sitting in a big bowl on my countertop with a cloth napkin thrown on top.

I'm especially happy that I pulled these potatoes the day AFTER I purchased a 5-lb bag of potatoes at the grocery store. I'm also in search of some tater-friendly recipes where I can enjoy the true potatoey-essence of this harvest and not just mash them up and pour gravy on them. Any suggestions?


Robin said...

Wow.....that's a great harvest!! Congratulations :)

Engineeredgarden said...

Yay!!! You are officially a tater farmer, now! You could cut them up as french fries and freeze them probably....or, mash some and make fritters out of them. My Mom used to make them all the time when I was a kid, and they were always a big hit.

Susan said...

Congrats on a very nice harvest. It's so nice when a first time crop does so well. Looks like you've got the green thumb when it comes to potatoes. I like mine best cut into chunks, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and roasted in the oven. Enjoy!

Ribbit said...

For storage, I don't think you should have washed them. I vote for making things like mashed taters or au gratten and then freezing them to pull out later.

Annie's Granny said...

We just couldn't get through spring without creamed new potatoes with peas. Just cut the potatoes in large chunks and boil them until tender. While they are cooking, mix together a basic white sauce...I use 4 T. butter, 4 T. flour. Melt the butter in a med. saucepan, stir in the flour until it's all smooth. Stir in 2 cups milk and cook until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. I put my peas in the sauce to cook just a bit (fresh or frozen ones), then add the drained potatoes. Of course, if your family won't eat peas you can just serve creamed potatoes...but it's just not the same!

Oven fries...cut potatoes into long strips. Drop into ice water, chill while preheating oven to 475F. Remove strips from water and dry thoroughly. Toss potatoes with a couple Tbsp. cooking oil of choice (I use canola). Spread fries in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Place in oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Turn fries occasionally to brown on all sides.

Pan roasted new potatoes are another favorite at my house. This recipe serves 2 generously, increase ingredients for more.

2 medium new potatoes
1/2 tablespoon olive or canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves; optional but really good
vegetable oil spray

Cut new potatoes into 1" chunks and toss with oil to coat potatoes.

Spray a skillet with vegetable oil spray (or add just a bit of oil), heat and add the potatoes. Sprinkle with rosemary, if desired, salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium heat, turning often, until well browned, crisp and tender.

Rainbow Potato Pancakes is another favorite, but this is already a blog, rather than a comment, so I'll stop now ;-)

Jamie said...

Oh man, now I'm itchin' to get out there and dig mine up too! Mine are still really green and have a few blooms on the so I guess I'll try to be patient.

Great recipes from AG... I'm copying them down for sure! ;)

Erin said...

Congrats on those beautiful potatoes! Ribbit's right, they should store unwashed, so now your clock is ticking! I have the same issue here in coastal VA in regards to storage (there ain't any!) but you can mash them and freeze bags of mashed potatoes, I just make them with garlic and skins and all, freeze and then you can pull out and heat up when ready. It's not ideal, but it's better than throwing them away!

Anonymous said...

Will you get more potato's after you have pulled them up? I am trying to grow a few things in containers but not too much is happing. I am waiting for something to produce something! I am learning as i go also. I enjoy your blog!


sb158 said...

Wow, look at that! Definitely have to try potatoes this fall. Annie's Granny's recipes sound great.

Stephen said...

The number of potatoes from the plant is set early on - if you pick some small (as new potatoes) you'll get less full sized ones.

You only get one crop from a plant :)

alizardinthegarden said...

Congrats on your potato harvest! It is great to hear that you were successful growing them in SFG boxes! How deep are your boxes? What varieties did you plant? I am growing them for the first time, in a 'potato box' and wonder the same thing...if anything is developing under all the soil! My plants should be flowering in the next few weeks (I am in MA) and I am going to see if there are any 'new potatoes' and then harvest the (hopeful) rest once the plants die back! Bon appetit!

Corner Gardener Sue said...

Look at those pretty potatoes! One thing I do, is cut them into chunks without peeling them, add some chopped onion or chives, and a little margarine (Land O Lakes light butter with canola oil) or butter. I use sensor cook for potatoes in my microwave. After they are cooked, I like to add seasonings, like rosemary or dill and parsley. Sometimes I add sour cream and or cream cheese, and then put the potatoes back in the microwave to heat up or melt the cream cheese. You can also add shredded cheese.

Of course, you could make some potato soup, too.

I'm thinking the potatoes will keep a few weeks, but I'm not sure. If they start to seem softish, try putting some in the refrigerator until you can use them.

Nicolezmomma said...

Congratulations on your potatoes. They look awesome.

Can you can potatoes?

Daphne said...

Well don't sell mashed potatoes short. If you add lots of garlic, a few herbs, and some Parmesean cheese they are a real treat - and they freeze well. Then again the roasted ones with salt, pepper, and lots of rosemary are good too.

Kelly said...

Nice harvest Kate! On of my preserving books suggests freezing them in wedges (think steak fries), par-baked I believe. Interested??

Cheryl said...

Very good harvest. Makes me sorry I didn't try this year.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin