Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Posted by Kate at 9:00 AM
Just for the record, few of the tiny tips I share on this blog are of my own invention, and even those have probably been figured out before by many others. I discovered this one in The River Cottage Cookbook, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who I believe has become a hero of mine in the last month or so. Hugh has done just about everything I am doing, everything I would like to do, and much more besides, in pursuit of food sovereignty. And he did it all at least a few years ago.
One of his little tricks is to take seed potatoes and set them up in empty egg cartons for the chitting (or pre-sprouting) before planting. This makes a lot of sense. The stability provided by the egg carton will allow all the sprouts to grow straight up, giving each potential plant a head start. Sprouts are fragile and liable to break off if the potatoes are allowed to do their chitting in a bag. Not only do seed potatoes in a bag get jostled on the way to the garden, but retrieving each piece from the bag presents difficulties with long sprouts, as I know from past experience. Having them stabilized and out in the open simplifies things considerably.
Hugh goes so far as to remove all but two of the sprouts so as to concentrate the vigor of each plant. I probably won't be quite so meticulous. Each potato can be cut into several seed pieces, so long as each one has a sprout on it. If you want to chit your potatoes (not everyone does), they like plenty of air, a moderate amount of light and moderate indoor temperatures.
I've got two and a half pounds each of four different potato varieties to plant this year. I'm abandoning the fingerling La Ratte which we grew the past two years, even though the flavor is superb. We simply don't enjoy scrubbing so many tiny potatoes to prepare our meal. I'm also giving up the ever reliable Kennebec, though probably only for this year. In their places I'm giving space to the Carola, which rumor says will produce additional clusters of tubers higher along the main stem if the plant is well hilled during growth. And we're going back to the All Blue potato we grew two years ago. It was an easy to harvest spud, and we found we missed its cheery purple color over the winter months. We'll continue on for a third year of growing the silken, creamy-textured Sangre, and our 2009 new trial, the German Butterball, which became an instant favorite with my husband.
I'll post about this year's potato bucket experiment just before planting time in my area. Stay tuned.
Are you planting potatoes this year? What varieties? Any special techniques?