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Gourmet potato varieties

Chitting potatoes

One of the best decisions we made during the early years on the farm was to splurge on $45 worth of seed garlic.  Yes, that sounds like an excessive amount of money for two pounds of garlic, but the high quality bulbs grow like crazy and have provided all the garlic we could eat for the last three years.  Meanwhile, we've given away starter garlic to all and sundry, so I really can't calculate how many pounds of garlic those first two pounds turned into.

Seed potatoesWith that success in mind, I decided to try out four new varieties of potatoes this spring, even though the seed potatoes cost $5 to $7.50 per pound at the Potato Garden (from whence the descriptions below came).  Here are the varieties I chose after reading the descriptions for all 55 types of potatoes offered on their website:

  • Carola - "This yellow from Germany is heralded by potato lovers as one of the best. Produces an abundant basket of tubers under each hill. Oblong to round tubers with smooth yellow skin and flesh that has the texture, moisture and taste of a new potato even after months of storage in the root cellar. Boils, bakes, mashes and hashes that are out of this world as well as makes some of the best scalloped potatoes around. Shows some scab and disease resistance, also excellent storage qualities."
  • Cracked Butterball - "A 2008 German Butterball x Agria cross by Verlin Rockey. This is a great way to get the German Butterball taste in a larger potato. With a unique characteristic of a crackled skin, it is easily washed with a vegetable brush."
  • Desiree - "The most popular “red” potato in Europe. Round to oblong tubers, satin-like pinkish/red skin and gourmet quality creamy-yellow flesh. Prolific yields of excellent all-around cooking potatoes. Very resistant to common diseases. An easy and very reliable gourmet potato to grow."
  • Rose Finn Apple Fingerling - "A rosy colored skin with deep yellow flesh and a waxy, firm texture. A great roasting potato, very popular and fun to grow. Delectable flavor and a fine keeper with vigorous vines. Many chefs are finding that these potatoes cooked and pureed lend themselves well as a soup thickener for sauces and gravies. A fine keeper with vigorous upright vines. Mid-Season variety."

Sprouted potatoAs you can tell, I'm focusing on good keepers because I want to be able to plant the offspring of these potatoes for many years to come.  We don't eat many potatoes any more, so I figure the ones we do eat should be the very best!  Stay tuned for a taste test this fall.

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Now you have to read Carol Deppe's book(s)! She has excellent advice on managing disease build up (which can be inevitable) when keeping potato seeds for the long-term. Roguing is critical and Ms. Deppe talks about the rigor of harvesting plant by plant to make sure you know which potatoes come from which plant in order to keep only the healthiest for next year's seeds. I found her potato writing some of the most useful (though her corn chapters were insightful as well for keeping seed at the gardener scale.)
Comment by Charity Tue Apr 24 08:49:55 2012

I'm only growing 5lbs of yukon gold I got from wholefoods since it'll be my first time with potatoes, didn't want to waste money, plus I don't have any room to spare with all my yard work I'm doing. They are all full of eyes.

I was thinking of using a leaf mulch/leaf compost mix for them in metal screen barrels I'm going to make.

What do you guys use, compost, leaf mulch?

Comment by Marco Tue Apr 24 09:24:38 2012
Last year was our first year growing potatoes, and we're hooked. We don't grow enough to last our family of five through the winter, but are planning to do a little more each year. Last year and this year we stuck with Purple Viking, which are so beautiful on the outside and bright white inside. Next year I might add some more, but we enjoy the great potatoes in late summer/fall, and go back to cheap grocery store potatoes for the rest of the year. We're planting ours this weekend. Can't wait!
Comment by Cindy Tue Apr 24 11:10:12 2012

Charity --- If I don't get to her book before winter (which looks likely the way the garden is zipping along this year...), I'll be sure to at least read the potato chapter! I was wondering how to keep diseases at bay when I save my own seed potatoes.

Marco --- Yukon Golds used to be our favorites (and still may be --- we'll see how these fancy ones turn out.)

We still don't have a favorite way to grow potatoes. I've changed every year and no method was horrible, but none was perfect either. I did find that straw or grass clippings make a better mulch than tree leaves for potatoes --- the potatoes don't like the high carbon leaves.

Cindy --- We tried a purple potato once, and they were very pretty, but we didn't feel like they were as tasty. But that was just one variety --- maybe yours is better! Good luck with your expanding potato patch.

Comment by anna Tue Apr 24 18:51:18 2012

I was curious to know if you chit (cut them up & dip in ash) before planting, and if so, does it really give you more taters? Thanks, Paula

Comment by Paula B. Tue Apr 24 19:40:21 2012

Paula --- I've done a lot of different potato preparations. Sometimes, I'll cut them and let the cut surfaces dry in the sun for a day or so before planting. But I usually do that when the ground's cold, and have since decided I prefer to wait to plant potatoes late (for better storage and fewer tubers rotting in the ground before they sprout.)

This year, the instructions that came with our potatoes recommended their version of chitting --- letting the potatoes sit in a moderately sunny window for a week or two before planting. I did that and got the nice pre-sprouts you see in the photos.

Comment by anna Wed Apr 25 09:13:14 2012