Saturday, October 17, 2009

Spud Harvest


74 pounds of potatoes. That was our one-day harvest on Wednesday. I had hoped to wait for our first frost to harvest the potatoes that remained in the ground. A frost would have given us just a bit more confidence that the blight wouldn't settle on the tubers after harvest and then rot them in storage. But the weather has not been cooperative. We've been hit with downright wintry temperatures which all but halt garden growth, but which will also just not drop below freezing. We're waiting on the first frost to put in the garlic as well.

So. The potato harvest. It took us about three hours to bring in those 74 pounds. Admittedly we weren't working like demons. By the end I have to tell you that the bucket method was looking better and better. We speared a few of my beloved Sangre potatoes with the pitchfork while harvesting, and found some that had been pretty well gnawed by rodents underground, voles perhaps. Neither of these things happen with potatoes grown in buckets. Also, my lower back was really feeling the strain.

Our total potato harvest for the year came to just over 100 pounds of Sangres, La Rattes, German Butterballs, and Kennebecs - four heirloom varieties. We planted about 11 pounds of seed potatoes, so our overall yield is a quite successful 9 to 1 return. Pretty amazing considering the late blight we got hit with. Yesterday I made a harvest soup with the potatoes damaged by the pitchfork, plus our own leeks, carrots, kale, herbs, garlic, and chicken broth. The only ingredients we didn't produce right here on 2/3 acre were a little olive oil, kosher salt, and white pepper. More satisfying than I can express.

The Sangres seemed noticeably larger this year than I remember them being last year. I love these for their incredibly silky, creamy texture. The La Rattes are a fingerling variety which are a real pain to harvest out of the ground because they set so many teeny tiny baby potatoes. But the La Rattes we roasted last year had the most intense potato flavor I've ever tasted in my life. These may well be the best candidate for bucket growing next year. Kennebecs are large baking potatoes that I like to have on hand when I want the potato to be the main course for dinner. A baked potato with some cheese and kale on top works for us as dinner. The German Butterballs were our new trial this year and they have become an instant favorite of my husband. They have a beautiful golden color and are sized very nicely for boiling and mashing. Their flavor explains the second part of their name.

I've no idea what last year's potato harvest weighed, so I have nothing to compare this to. But I suspect we will not buy any potatoes this year. We'll simply eat these until they're gone and then go without until next year's crop is ready. I've offered to supply the potatoes for our family Thanksgiving feast to feed 17 people. So that will take a significant chunk away from our stores. I'll be paying attention to when we run out of spuds. If we run out well before they show signs of sprouting, I'll plan for a larger harvest next year.

How did your spud crop do this year?

Related posts:
Brrrf! Baking Weather and Rustic Potato Loaves
Potato Buckets: Experimental Yields
Potato Blight
Harvest Meal: Colcannon
Sour Milk Potato Biscuit-Muffins
Harvest Meal: Pyttipanna

9 comments:

NMPatricia said...

Wow. You provide such inspiration. I am starting out much smaller. I showed your "bucket" systme to my husband and even his usual doubting nature thought it would be a good idea!

How will you store all of these potatoes?

Walker said...

Our self-watering containers worked great ... from one small seed potato in each (probably 3-4 oz.) we got 3#, 12 oz. in one and 4# 6 oz. in the other (both Butte variety, a russet).

Along with a few large ones, we got lots of small ones that were perfect for roasting whole in a herbed olive oil mixture ... ymmmmmm!

We had much better luck with these self-watering containers than with the tower method, which I was also trying. Next year, no towers ... just lots of SWCs.

marriedtothefarm said...

Looks good! My plants were killed off by something near the end of the growing season but I think the culprit here was a worm. I never thought of calling the extension office, that's a good idea. I always want to figure things out myself but that's silly when it affects my harvest! Thanks for the idea.

el said...

Happy harvest, Kate!

*Every* year is a "well how much should I grow next year" year, I think, especially with potatoes. Little guys make such a land grab you know! But I love them so I don't mind how much space they seem to take over.

I always manage to stab a few, too. If they're cured well enough before they go to storage, they'll pull through fine; they'll just scab over. Well, such is my experience as I can never find all that I stab. And: they'll also ALL sprout before you can plant them, and somehow you still get big harvests anyway. Frankly I can't wait until my girl gets old enough that it becomes her job to pull the sprouts off in Feb., isn't that mean of me?

Considering potatoes are the one thing that's welcome at all three meals, I plant lots of them. It just seems a sensible plan in terms of plain self-sufficiency.

Kate said...

Patricia, last year we simply left them in our unheated garage. It worked for us, but then we had a smaller harvest. I'm guessing I'll need to take more care with these as I hope to have them last longer. Keeping them dry and in a dark place is essential, and cool but not freezing temperature if I'm not mistaken. I may try one of the unheated rooms of our house this year.

Walker, please, please, please share a link with us on the details of your growing method, if you have one!

mttf, that's a shame! It always is when a crop fails. But potatoes hurt all the more so because they can really anchor a meal.

El, thanks for the tip. What about the ones that get speared straight through the center? Will those scab over? There weren't all that many, but I do have a few more that I'm going to try to use up in the next few days. I agree about potatoes and self-sufficiency. In my area the two must go hand in hand, I think. I'm trying to curb my appetite to try more varieties next year. We have only so much space!

Wendy said...

Wow! Awesome harvest!

I grew my potatoes in wire towers, and I liked that method. I'll do it again in the future.

I don't think I harvested more than 30 lbs, but I was happy with what we did get. I will end up buying more from local farmers, because potatoes are a staple for us, but in the years to come I hope to get closer to ... well, your total ;), to improve our self-sufficiency.

Walker said...

There are good instructions for making generic self-watering containers here:

http://earthtainer.tomatofest.com/

I used five gallon food-grade buckets instead, plans from "The Urban Homestead" by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen.

There is a long (37 page) pdf you can get here that shows a picture of what mine look like.

http://www.homegrownevolution.com/2009/04/self-irrigating-planter-resources.html

I think I'll be using these a lot more next year!

Kate said...

Wendy, thanks. As you can see from Walker's comments, there is plenty more room for experimentation and tweaking when it comes to potato cultivation. I would very much like to shift to container growing for the spuds for ease of harvest and protection against underground gnawing varmints. Will be mulling the possibilities over the winter months.

Walker, many thanks for the reference to the type of container you used. As I said before - food for thought.

Thomas said...

Wow, that's a lot of potatoes! I will have to try my hand at growing potatoes in buckets next year.