Welcome to all of our Wednesday blog readers this week as well as to the warmer temps (sort of) and longer days! We also welcome back our CSA customers who received their first overfilled box last Friday full of early spring favorites to include crispy carrots, a bounty of braising mix and salad mix, arugula, radishes (gorgeous!), rosemary, and turnips! A peek in the hoop house at this writing indicates an equally abundant harvest for this week’s CSA as well!
Early spring also welcomes the planting of one of my personal favorites, potatoes! Last week on the student farm, 6 beds were trenched and tucked in with 120 pounds of taters ranging in colors, flavors, and maturities. CSA members can look forward to the first buried treasure digging of the tasty early variety of Mountain Rose potatoes by early June along with Yukon Gold, Purple Viking, and Kerr’s Pink. Mid-maturing potatoes planted include Canela, Carola, French Fingerling, and Sangre with Russian Banana to be the fall finale.
So what is so special about spuds? The potato, properly named as Solanum tuberosum, belongs to the Solanaceae (Nightshade) family and is an annual cool season plant. The Irish (white) potato, which is a longtime favorite of home gardeners, is so named for the potato famine which occurred in Ireland during the 1800’s. Both red and white skinned potatoes are most commonly grown with other colors, including blue, pink, and yellow, which are also naturally occurring, but not grown as often. The edible portion of the plant, the tuber, is an underground modified stem structure; the “eyes” are the buds which sprout shoots.
According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, the potato is America’s favorite vegetable and we eat about 140 pounds per person each year (I wonder though how much of that poundage is in potato chips and French fries!). The popularity of carbohydrates fluctuates with fickle diet trends but potatoes cooked in their natural state, void of excessive processing and additives, are an energizing source of complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. One medium sized potato (about 1/3 pound) supplies 35% of the U.S. recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C, 6% protein, and 10% iron, and only has 100 calories. Locally grown organic potatoes are void of the chemicals used on conventionally grown and store bought potatoes which are routinely treated with pesticides and anti-sprouting compounds and have also been in storage for so long that they have lost most of their flavor.
Potatoes are one of the easiest crops to grow. All you need to get started is a well-prepared bed and certified seed potatoes from a reputable company. Certified disease-free seed potatoes can be purchased to grow your own spud plantings either locally or through mail-order firms. The CCCC student farm purchases theirs through Country Farm and Home in Pittsboro which still has a good supply available for purchasing. There are many methods to grow potatoes with some as simple as growing in a bucket, a bale of straw, or even a garbage bag! Check out the recent article in Organic Gardening Magazine for more information and tips on sowing your own spuds (http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/7-ways-plant-potatoes). And be sure to check back in a couple of months to learn about our potato progress and pending harvests!
-Donna Poe, CCCC student and potato planter!