Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Trailer Load of Potatoes

As a child growing up my dad would always finish washing my ears with the comment "these ears are so dirty you could grow potatoes in them!".   Well whether there was any truth to that, I am always think of him as I dig my potatoes out of the garden before a hard freeze occurs.  This year was a bumper crop for one of my favorite things to grow.   Planted in early May, the wet summer was perfect for producing this trailer full of delicious tubers.  Potatoes, along with corn (maize) were the 2 most important food crops originating in the New World.  Native to Peru, South America, they have become a staple in the world's food supply.  Today's varieties are hardy, disease resistant, and yield exceptionally well.  This wasn't always the case as in 1845 when the Irish, for whom the poor people depended solely on the potato, experienced a blight (disease) which eventually killed over 1 million people.  There are some interesting side stories regarding the role of England, who controlled Ireland at the time, however that is a story for another time.  What is interesting about potatoes is that the plant contains toxic compounds, especially in the leaves, stems, and round fruit that grow from the flowers.  Although these compounds in severe cases can cause coma and eventually death, it is very rare.  Never the less potato breeders developing new cultivars are keenly aware of this property and look for toxicity levels in the tubers to minimize any problems associated with this.  When the tubers are not fully covered by soil and are exposed to the sun, the tops turn green.  The green areas have more concentration of these compounds and should be discarded before cooking.   A little research shows that in the last 50 years there has been no reported cases of death from poisoning, and those cases that have  been reported have been minor issues relating to eating the green portion of the tuber or because of drinking potato leaf tea (that doesn't even sound good!).  If any of you have read John Krakauer's book Into the Wild, the main character died a agonizing death eating a distant relative of the potato plant's wrong parts.

This year I grew 5 different varieties of potatoes.  They included Norland Reds, Kennebec, California White, Yukon Gold, and a blue potato cultivar pictured here.  The Norland and Kennebec tend to grow some nice large tubers as you can see the bigger ones in the trailer.  My guess is I dug over 125# of tubers from the 2 40 foot rows planted.  Fertilized with an 18-46-0 mixture, the high middle number assured good root development.  One of my favorite ways to prepare the fruits of my labor is to cut up a few potatoes along with an onion from the same garden and put them in some aluminum foil.  Add a little olive oil and Italian seasoning, throw them on the grill and in about an hour you have a delicious addition to any meal.  As with my pickles, the fruits of my labor pays off for all the hard work in the spring and summer.

As far as fishing goes, I am sorry to report there has been little time for that.  My plans are to take
Thursday, October 21st off to sight in my new rifle scope then head to Mille Lacs.  Now that the water has cooled, word has it the perch are biting better.  Going with my neighbor Lory, we hope to bring back a few of these great eating fish as well check out the evening trolling bite as we are right on top of the next full moon.  We'll see!!!


Dewey said...

Mr. Anderson, You need a potato gun!!

Anonymous said...

Dave, I read that book and if you liked it you will enjoy his other one "Into Thin Air". Amazing what people put themselves through.