September 16, 2013
Digging potatoes from the garden feels like digging gold to me, especially because my first attempt at growing fingerling potatoes several years ago was a complete failure. At least we have a good laugh about it every time we talk about it, or tell the story.
The potato vines were starting to wilt, signaling the approach of harvest time, when I realized that we did not have a good place to store them, such as a root cellar, or a cold but frost-free basement or shed. So I asked friends, owners of the local winery, whether they let me store the potatoes in one of their cellars.
They showed me around and asked how many potatoes I expected to harvest. I had no clue but thought that a corner in one of the cellars would be sufficient to store a couple of crates.
One of the following afternoons, I thought I would start digging a few plants for a test. All I could find was a potato or two. I dug until I hit bedrock. Nothing. The same thing with the next potato plant. And the next. And the next… At the end, I had a tiny basket of potatoes, barely enough for a meal.
I left the basket outside by the garage door and went inside. Shortly afterwards my husband came home. “So you started digging the potatoes?” he asked. “No, that’s it, that is all the harvest.” He looked at me in disbelief, then at the basket, at me again, then stood by the garage laughing and laughing.
The next day I had to call the winery saying there was no need for storage.
I never wanted to try potatoes again but this year I gave it another shot. Again, I planted fingerling potatoes because I cannot buy them locally grown, and they are just delicious.
I don’t know whether it was the variety, or the meticulous hilling, or the weather, or the addition of ample amounts of ashes from our wood-burning stoves, or the straw I put around the plants to fend off insects (thank you, Troy from Hope Hill Lavender Farm, for the tip), or all of the above. Fact is: it has been a real and rich harvest!
The potatoes are larger than fingerlings usually are because I leave them in the ground and dig them as I need them for cooking. I estimate that they will be all eaten by the time the frost comes. As the plants have totally wilted and shriveled I have placed a marker where each plant was so I can find it.
The potatoes are still so tender that you can eat them with their skins. Last night we had them with sage butter.