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The Biggest Staple of Them All

September 6, 2013

I can’t mention staples without writing about potatoes.  Even though my husband is allergic to potatoes, we still grow and eat them here.  Besides the eating, I like the fact that I don’t have to irrigate them, or do any processing to store them.  Plant, hill, hill, hill, worry, harvest, store, and enjoy.  Filling the root cellar doesn’t get much easier than that.

After last year’s dismal harvest and a winter without potatoes galore, I went a little overboard this year in my seed potato purchasing and subsequent planting.  Potatoes take up a lot of space in my dryland garden so I was looking for sure bets.  Well, as sure as you can be about any vegetable planting, that is.  Besides taste and texture of a potato I look for productivity and long-term storage potential.  I only had two slots open in addition to my standbys:  Purple Viking, Dark Red Norland, and Romanze.  I chose Nicola and Salem because of the glowing descriptions in the Moose Tubers catalog.  Moose Tubers potato variety chart comes in handy too.

The hardest part comes in with all that cooking and taste testing. And you thought harvesting was the hard part!  We’re not done yet with the taste testing, because we haven’t moved into mashed potato season here since we’re still trying to hang on to summer and the summer foods as long as we can, but I have to say none of these are duds, unless you like dry, mealy type of potatoes.  All are moist, and firm, with Nicola being a waxy, yellow fleshed potato salad type.

Here’s the list with a few notes:

Romanze – red skin, yellow moist flesh.  This potato has dropped out of sight?  I’m using saved seed for these.  These are very prolific and are long season here being the last to die down.  Scroll to the bottom of this post to see a photo of oven fries made from these…mm, good.

Nicola – very productive and in my better soil the potatoes were much larger in size than in my mediocre soil,  still lots of potatoes, but small.  Taste is great, and they make a killer potato salad.  They are so firm that you can leave them on the stove too long and they still turn out good enough for a potluck potato salad.  Don’t ask…

Dark Red Norland – the all around red potato for early potatoes.  Sometimes I don’t plant these, but when I do I am never disappointed.  A good potato for beginners.  Good for new potatoes and potato salad, and anything else really.  This variety’s earliness and productivity make it a good workhorse potato.

Purple Viking – hands down this is the potato I can’t be without.  Firm, white flesh, and pretty purple and pink skin plus it keeps until June and still is edible.  We just like the taste and texture the most in all dishes, but that’s just us. It does well in our growing conditions and most winters takes us through with potatoes left over.

Salem – I bought this on a whim after reading “…bushel baskets brimming…”, it hasn’t disappointed me at all.  Healthy, productive plants and nice big potatoes with a sweet flavor that has lately been lending itself to breakfast hashbrowns.  If it passes the keeping test, I’ll grow this one again.  I know it’s a boring ol’ white potato, but it’s a good one.

If you’re new to potatoes, this is the time of year to haunt the farmers markets and see what is available and give them a try before you commit to buying seed.  I always recommend trying what market gardeners grow in your area, because they have done some of the homework for you.  If a market gardener has enough to bring to market you can bet the same variety will do well in the home garden.

It’s also the time of year to make bulk buys of potatoes for winter storage if you don’t have room to grow large amounts of spuds.  Storage requirements of potatoes are:  cool (above freezing), high humidity (but not wet) and dark.  If you can meet that criteria you can lay in a box or six of potatoes for the winter, while you plot out your own potato patch for next year.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. September 6, 2013 3:18 pm

    Thank you for such an informative post! My parents tried growing potatoes once when I was a kid, but we didn’t have much success. You can be sure they’ll be on my list for next year. Just one newbie question if you don’t mind … what do you mean by “plant, hill, hill, hill” ? Thanks again!

    • September 6, 2013 3:34 pm

      RHG, the potatoes form above the seed piece and along the stems, I use soil to hill with as the plants grow you cover them almost all the way, let them grow and repeat until the plant blooms. At that time the potatoes will start to grow larger and all you have to do is wait until the plants die down for harvesting. At about bloom time too you can rob a few potatoes by feeling around the hill, but that will lessen your final harvest a bit.

      • September 6, 2013 3:38 pm

        Thank you – that helps a lot. And probably explains why we didn’t get a single potato! Have a great weekend!

  2. September 6, 2013 5:24 pm

    We don’t grow potatoes for a staple, since I can’t justify the extra cost. I can buy local potatoes right now for 10lbs/dollar. However, I do like to grow a patch of specialty potatoes that I can’t find in the stores or which are too expensive at the farmer’s markets. I like fingerlings, especially the Russian bananas and rose Finns.

    • September 7, 2013 7:34 am

      Aimee, wow that’s some subsidized potatoes – who can truly grow potatoes for .10 a pound and get them to market too?

  3. Bee permalink
    September 7, 2013 8:04 am

    Nita, Ronnigers was still carrying Romanze last time I checked. They’ve merged with another company and are called Potato Garden now, and the website’s down for maintenance, so I can’t check. My all-time favorite is the German Butterball.

    • September 7, 2013 9:37 am

      Bee, good tip, I got my Nicola from them and didn’t even look for Romanze, but I don’t see it in the catalog that I have for ’13-’14. Hopefully they will have it again for folks who want to try it. It’s been a great potato here but I fear it’s long season really makes it susceptible to blight in quite a few areas. I want to try Desiree next year, Stonehead reported good luck with it during a very bad blight year in Scotland. That was few years back, but if I remember right, it was the only spud out of all the varieties he grew that didn’t succumb.

  4. September 7, 2013 2:18 pm

    Love me some taters – YUM:) Happy Weekend!

  5. September 7, 2013 5:31 pm

    Oh Potato, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I’m German and my love for potatoes is probably genetic. I’m going to try Nicola next year if I can get my fingers on some seed ones! I love potato salad, German style, of course.

    • September 8, 2013 4:59 am

      Katharina, me too, love potatoes and German that is! To tell the truth, half the time this summer I have skipped the boiling and roasted them instead and then made the salad while the potatoes are warm. A boiled egg or two, whipped up with mustard, and some farmstead capers (nasturtium buds) and I’m good to go.

  6. September 8, 2013 2:09 pm

    I’ve been growing Nicola for a couple of years and not only are they delicious but they keep very well too!

  7. September 11, 2013 6:35 pm

    great post. I believe that I read that Nicola have a low glycemic index for a potato and that’s why I tried growing them. they were small, so I guess my soil isn’t any good!

    • September 11, 2013 7:08 pm

      Paula, I heard that too, mine were small in the poorer end of the garden, but in the better soil they really did well. I like big potatoes 🙂

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