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Potatoes cannot be shipped if the temperatures are below freezing. We will ship to the west coast when we have 5 consecutive days above freezing temperatures. We will ship to the midwest and east coast when we have 3 consecutive days of above freezing temperatures.
For this newsletter, we are going to be talking about standard potatoes. Harvesting History sells two kinds of potatoes: the fingerlings and the standards. Fingerlings are long, somewhat ‘finger-shaped’ potatoes. The standard potatoes have a round or oblong shape. We will be discussing fingerling potatoes in our February 2, 2019 newsletter.
Potatoes are members of the Nightshade family of plants which also include the Tomato and the Eggplant. The potato is native to the Andes mountain regions of Chile and Peru. Archaeologists believe that the potato was being cultivated by pre-Columbian farmers as early as 5000 B.C. Remains of potatoes have been found at Incan burial sites which date to 500 B.C. In 1540, the potato was discovered by Spanish explorers who eventually introduced the plant into Europe around 1560.
The potato was not popular in the United States until the mid-19th century. Many people thought that the tubers were poisonous and others did not like the yellowish color of the flesh. In 1811, The D. Landreth Seed Company introduced a potato with white flesh and this potato gradually gained acceptance. Today, the potato is one of the most popular vegetables known. It has been accepted by most of the cultures on earth as a staple of their diets.
Potatoes are very easy to grow. Plant potatoes when the soil temperature has reached 45 degrees. They prefer a loose, loamy soil that is slightly acidic, but they are not fussy and will grow in almost any soil environment as long as the soil is not constantly wet. Potatoes do not like very rich soil, so several weeks before planting till a very small amount of compost and dehydrated cow manure into the soil. If you already amend your soil on a regular basis, do not till anything into the soil. 1-2 days before planting cut the seed potatoes into chunks. Each chunk should contain three ‘eyes’ or buds. The flesh must be dry before the chunk can be planted. If the flesh is not dry, the chunk will probably rot.
There are 2 schools of thought on planting potatoes – one suggests that you mound the potatoes, one suggests that you trench potatoes. If you are a ‘mounder’, plant the seed potatoes 6 inches deep, 15 inches apart, in rows, 2 1/2 to 3 feet apart. When the stems of the plant are approximately 8 inches tall, mound dirt up around the stem burying half the stem. Repeat when the stems have grown another 8 inches. The mounding will prevent the potatoes from growing out of the soil.
If you are a ‘trencher’, dig a trench 15 inches deep and place the seed potatoes 15 inches apart, in trenches 2 1/2 to 3 feet apart. Cover the potatoes with 6 inches of soil. When the stems of the plant are approximately 4 inches tall, fill in the trench around the stem, burying the plant with only the top leaves exposed. Repeat when the stems have grown another 4 inches, and continue to repeat until you have filled in the trench.
Harvest baby potatoes (commonly known as ‘new potatoes’) 2-3 weeks after the plant has flowered. Harvest mature potatoes 2-3 weeks after the plant has died back in the fall. Harvest by digging around the plant about 12 inches from the stem. Potatoes can be as much as 12-18 inches deep. Potatoes can be harvested as long as the soil can be worked and, if mulched, can be harvested throughout most winters.
To purchase Purple Viking Seed Potatoes click this link
I think the Purple Viking potato is the most beautiful potato there is. Its mottled purple skin with streaks of brown and pinkish brown and its pure white flesh are just gorgeous to observe, but it is its truly excellent flavor that will win you over immediately.
This is a great baking potato, boiling potato, frying potato, roasting potato, etc. It is also a potato worth growing because you will rarely, if ever, be able topurchase it at your grocer’s. Born and bred in America, it is the offspring of Viking Red a potato that has produced many great cultivars.
Bintje is an old European potato introduced in 1905 by a Dutch schoolmaster and part time potato breeder, K. L. de Vries. He named the potato after one of his star pupils.
Bintje is a yellow skinned, yellow fleshed potato with excellent flavor. It makes the best French fries you will ever eat, but it can also be baked, boiled, roasted or mashed with delicious results.
Today, out of all the hundreds of varieties of potatoes grown and sold, Bintje is the top variety grown on this planet.
To purchase Mountain Rose Seed Potatoes click this link
Mountain Rose is a newer potato variety that has become popular very quickly because it is exceptionally high in antioxidants. This red skinned-red fleshed potato was developed from a cross between All Red (a great red skinned variety) and a white fleshed, nameless potato that was good for making potato chips. Its creamy texture, when prepared, makes it good for any kind of cooking.
Maris Piper is a yellow skinned-yellow fleshed potato that is the most widely grown potato in the UK. I can attest, from the large number of orders for this potato that we receive from Brits living in the US, that this potato is beloved by the British. The Brits will tell you, unabashedly, that this potato is good for everything, especially ‘chips’ or French fries as we know them.
Maris Piper was developed by John Clarke, a legendary potato developer known in England as the ‘Potato Wizard’. He was born in 1889 and left school at the age of 12 to work on the family farm and to pursue what would become his lifelong passion, growing potatoes. Maris Piper was introduced in 1966. It was one of the first potato varieties bred to be resistant to a form of potato nematode that is a pervasive problem in England.
The 2018 growing year in the US was not a good year for Maris Piper. Most of the crop has been discarded, but the principals at Harvesting History have been in the business for a long time and we knew a small farm that successfully grew Maris Piper last year. We have a limited supply which we are pleased to be able to offer to our customers.
Potatoes are actually easy to grow in containers and, today, most garden centers offer ‘potato sacks’ for growing potatoes. These ‘potato sacks’ are a great way to grow and are an efficient use of space. You can make your own potato sack by using the black heavy duty trash bags available at your hardware store. I would double them. Make sure you punch lots of holes in your potato sack because the most frequent problem with these sacks is water retention which rots the tubers and the plants.
To grow potatoes in containers, start in late winter. Line the container with 4 inches of soil like topsoil from the garden center. Do not use any specialty soil mixes. Remember, potatoes do not like rich soil. Place one chunk of potato with completely dried flesh in the center of the container and cover with 4 inches of soil. As the potato plant emerges from the soil, cover it with straw (not hay, straw) and continue to do so until you have stacked at least 15 inches of straw on top of the soil layer.
The potatoes will form along the stems of the plant. If you want new potatoes, remove some of the straw from the plant 2 weeks after the potato blossoms fade. Mature potatoes can be harvested 2 weeks after the plant dies back in the fall.
If you have limited space and are considering growing potatoes in containers,we suggest trying one variety each of a red, white and blue tomato. The following varieties we know do well in containers.
The Nicola potato is not well known to most Americans, but potato aficionados will tell you that this potato is better than Yukon Gold or German Butterball, and that is really saying something.
Nicola was developed in Holland and has become very popular throughout Europe.
It does extremely well as a container plant, so for those who are contemplating growing potatoes in tires or sacks, this might be an excellent choice.
Nicola has a rich, nutty flavor and can be enjoyed without garnishes like butter and sour cream. However, such garnishes only serve to enhance Nicola’s rich flavor if they are used.
This is an extraordinary potato. If you are in to experimenting, this should be your choice.
There are many great red skinned potatoes, but Desiree is my favorite and I grow it every year. It is rugged and reliable and produces good yields of standard, yellow fleshed 10-20 oz. tubers. Desiree became very popular with European allotment gardeners (Community Gardeners in the US) because it is drought resistant and fairly disease resistant, but it is the rich, creamy flavor of its pale-yellow flesh that endears this potato to many of us.
London, England-Allotment Potato Beds ready for planting
This old girl earned her official designation as an heirloom variety in 2012. She was introduced from the Netherlands in 1962 and quickly, like Bintje, became a favorite throughout Europe. Desiree was eventually brought to the United States, where, again, because of her incredible flavor she rapidly gained popularity. For more than 50 years, Desiree has pleased palates throughout Europe and the US.
Purple Majesty is the deepest purple of all the blue/purple potatoes grown today. It also contains the highest concentration of antioxidants of any potato grown today and twice the concentration of anthoocyanins (antioxidants) of any other form of produce.
Purple Majesty was developed from the oldest known purple potato, Purple Peruvian, a fingerling which has been known since the 1500s.
Purple Majesty has a strong, earthy flavor when fried, roasted or broiled. If you boil or steam this potato it will lose some of its deep purple color, so it is best not to submerge it in liquids in order to cook it.
Many of you who have heard my potato lectures know that the memory I cherish the most of my own son gardening, was watching him, one mild December day, when he was about 4 years old. Everybody was rushing around our home trying to get tasks accomplished except him. I noticed that he had been missing for a good half hour when I looked out our kitchen window and found him, all by himself, digging through the soil in our small urban garden in Roland Park, Baltimore looking for potatoes. This activity kept him busy for several hours. Thank God.
Teachers, growing potatoes in a container outside is a fascinating project for your students. The project will have to carry over into the fall, but it is an exceptional learning experience. If you teach in an area that receives even a modest amount of rain throughout the summer, your container will not require any care throughout the summer. If you are going to try this, choose an extraordinary potato like the Purple Majesty discussed above.
Parents, growing potatoes with children will be as much fun for you as for them. Of all the potatoes that we know, we feel the German Butterball is the best potato to start with.
To purchase German Butterball Potatoes click this link
As Harvesting History was building its potato collection several years ago, we consulted an old and wise and very experienced Colorado potato farmer. He provided us with plenty of great advice and some recommended varieties. Of all the potatoes he talked about, the one that was clearly his favorite was German Butterball.
This potato is a yellow skinned-yellow fleshed potato with a creamy texture and an amazing buttery flavor. You can prepare it any way you like. It is the easiest to grow of all our potatoes and the most reliable.
As I finish this newsletter, there are some facts about potatoes that I urge you to remember:
1. Never plant potatoes in rich, well composted soil. Potatoes do best in
average soil. Rich soil will cause them to develop scabs all over their
skin and to look horrid.
2. Potatoes are among the easiest of all vegetables to grow. YES, they
can be grown, quite well, in tires. YES, they can be grown in black
plastic bags as long as there are enough holes in the bags to allow for
good drainage. YES, they can be grown, easily in containers. YES, they
can be grown in straw. Potatoes need average soil, good drainage
and full sun and nothing else.
Starting Potatoes in tires
To see our Starting Potatoes video on You Tube click this link
3. Potatoes should be rotated on a three-year schedule which means that
after three years they can be replanted in their original beds.
4. If you are just getting started raising potatoes, you should expect to
get 5-10 pounds of potatoes per plant your first year. As you gain
expertise, you can expect a healthy potato plant to produce 20-30
pounds of potatoes.
5. If you are a young parent or a grandparent who has decided to garden
with your children, in my opinion, there is no better vegetable to teach
a child to grow than the potato. Together, you will learn so much, laugh
so much and relish the process of gardening. It is memories like these
that grow the best lifelong gardeners.
I hope each of you will try your hand at potato gardening this spring. It is one of the best gardening experiences you will ever have.
So why do we claim that potatoes are the most utilitarian of all vegetables? We claim this because there are enough vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in the flesh and the skin of potatoes to nourish a person for life. We don’t recommend that you try this, but potatoes have populated this planet so aggressively because this vegetable can feed the rich and the poor and provide a nourishing source of sustenance for all humanity.
This season our newsletters will focus on three types of gardeners:
• Traditional Heirloom Gardeners,
• Teachers Who Inspire Children to Become Gardeners and
• Container Gardeners
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