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Thursday, June 16, 2011


“What I say is that, if a fellow really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.” A. A. Milne 

Despite limited garden space, I decided to try my hand at growing potatoes.  Wood Prairie Farm has an excellent selection of organic seed potatoes and great advice on growing potatoes.  After much deliberation, I elected to try their Rose Finn Apple Fingerling and Yukon Gold varieties.  

I planted one crop in February and have been harvesting a few potatoes each week since late May.  A second crop was planted in March with a third crop planned for planting in August. I planted the sprouted (aka "chitted") tubers in raised beds a few inches deep and about a foot apart using the “hilling method” of adding soil & compost as the plants grow, burying the stem, and leaving only half the stem exposed.  I repeated the hilling process every few weeks. The hilling method allows for better drainage, less compaction & makes it easy to harvest just a few potatoes at a time rather than pulling up the entire plant.  

Next Spring I hope to try the “potato tower” method outlined in Pam Peirce’s “Golden Gate Gardening: The Complete Guide to Year-Round Food Gardening in the San Francisco Bay Area and Coastal California.”   Inside a wire-mesh tower 3 feet high and 2 feet in diameter, tubers are planted in layers with 10 inches of compost-rich soil separating each layer.  The tower seems perfect for the home gardener.  Hayes Valley Farm has used the towers successfully in their urban garden and their site provides excellent instructions on how to build the towers.

  Golden Gate Gardening: The Complete Guide to Year-Round Food Gardening in the San Francisco Bay Area and Coastal California

Initially, I was so eager to savor the earthy flavor of the new potatoes that for my first few "harvests" I merely steamed the fingerlings with baby artichokes, and tossed the lot with olive oil, tarragon and a spritz of lemon.  However, I’ve become more blasé as the harvests continue and plan to try this recipe adapted from Laura Calder’s “Pommes De Terre a la Boulangere: Potatoes a la Bakery”
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 pound of potatoes, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme leaves
1 cup of stock

Saute the onions until soft and golden in half the butter & olive oil.  In a baking dish brushed with olive oil, layer the onion and potatoes, seasoning each layer with salt, pepper and thyme leaves.  Pour the stock over the layers, cover with foil and bake at 300 degrees until the liquid has been absorbed, approximately 1 1/2 hours.  Uncover for the last 30 minutes for a crispy crust. Note: If you are using older potatoes you may need to bake for 2 hours.  Newly dug potatoes require less time.

French Food at Home [Paperback]

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