What’s Taters Precious?

poetaytoes Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew! Potatoes are the staple crop of our homestead, they have only slightly fewer calories than corn or wheat and produce many times more actual nutrition per acre than any other staple crop, except for maybe rice.  But potatoes have the advantage in that they can be grown in a relatively small space, and they will give you a crop even in poor clayey soil and even in partial shade…not as good a crop if conditions were ideal, mind you, but you’ll still get a few good sized taters per plant even in the worst of conditions!  They also have the added bonus of being a “stealth crop”, which makes them most excellent for an “end of the world as we know it” survival type situation.  Most people know what corn and wheat look like, but fewer than most know what a potato plant looks like and the crop is grown underground so that even if would be bandits or looters tried to steal your crops (or raze them and if your crop got razed the potatoes would be protected underground..) more than likely not fully understanding agriculture, they would never think to dig below the plant to look for something edible, ’cause after all, most people are stupid…and when it comes to potatoes you can use that to your advantage! 😀

From this year's harvest: Red Pontiac, Adirondack Blue and Yukon Gold Potatoes

From this year’s harvest: Red Pontiac, Adirondack Blue and Yukon Gold Potatoes

Potatoes are also easily prepared and paired up with something like homegrown eggs for breakfast or with a nice homegrown roast chicken for dinner, maybe with some steamed homegrown snap beans and a homegrown green salad on the side maybe with homegrown hardboiled eggs on that salad and you have a 2 very full and filling meals!  They also pair well with our goat’s milk and cheese that we produce and can be utilized in so many diverse and numerous ways that there really is no excuse to NOT grow potatoes (unless you don’t have the climate for them ’cause they don’t really like super hot dry weather..) Potatoes are very easy to grow!  I have been growing potatoes every year since the summer of 2008 and the most we have ever grown is about 30 pounds but I hope to grow a lot more than that in the future.   My most favorite is Yukon Gold but I also like Red Pontiac and the good ol’ reliable Kennebec potato.

chitting potatoes on windowsill

chitting potatoes on windowsill

They are most often planted in spring, but can be planted in early summer for a late fall harvest.  About 4 weeks before your last frost take your seed potatoes and cut them so that there is at least 2-3 eyes per potato piece and stick the pieces in an egg carton or on a tray and put them in a sheltered brightly lit cool, but not freezing, area like near the window of an unheated room. After about 2 weeks they will have grown little sprouts (this is called “chitting” by the way). About 2-3 weeks before your last frost, a few days before you plan to plant them, dig some very deeply dug rows (at least 12″ but down to 24″ is not unheard of, the deeper the better!) in moderately fertile soil with some compost worked in.  Space the rows about 36″ apart on the center and plant the chitted potato pieces about 6″-8″ apart and 4 inches deep in the rows, but you wanna dig the trench about 1 foot deep and pile the soil to the side in between the rows ’cause we wanna bury the plants as they grow…this way we get way more potatoes per plant! In a few weeks the little potato plants will sprout up out of the ground, when they get about 4 inches tall bury the bottom 1-2 inches with soil and every time the plant grows a few more inches keep filling in the trench with soil never burying more than 1/2 of the plant at one time.  Keep doing this until the trench is filled and even mound the soil around the plants once they begin to grow out the the trench.  All of the potatoes always grow above the seed potato so the more space between the seed potato and the top of the soil, the more room there is for potatoes to grow. After the plants flower and then die back to the ground it’s then time to dig your potatoes…and it’s as simple as that! 😀 Besides the obvious baked potato or mashed potatoes, or the classic “snap beans and taters”, my favorite way to eat our homegrown potatoes are as fried potatoes (also called homefries) fried in chicken fat from some homegrown chicken sometimes with added homegrown onions, peppers, garlic and parsley. I love it for breakfast with fried eggs!

snap beans and potatoes cooked together in the same pot

snap beans and potatoes cooked together in the same pot

homegrown fried eggs and taters

homegrown fried eggs and taters

There is also potato salad, of course, made with homemade mayo using fresh egg yolks from our hens along with homegrown onions and a mixture of homegrown sweet and mildly hot peppers, with finely chopped homegrown hardboiled eggs and sometimes I add in finely chopped homegrown cucumber too.

chopped boiled taters ready to be made into potato salad

chopped boiled taters ready to be made into potato salad

And then there is the deluxe supremo of potato dishes: Scalloped Potatoes!  Thinly sliced homegrown potatoes covered in a medium white sauce made from our homegrown goat’s milks and finely chopped homegrown onions and garlic, with a bit of flour and butter added for thickening and baked in the oven until the sauce is all gooey and the potatoes are falling apart tender *drool*

potatoes sliced and ready to be made into scalloped potatoes

potatoes sliced and ready to be made into scalloped potatoes

the finished scalloped potatoes

the finished scalloped potatoes

As you can see, when using potatoes as your staple crop, you can get many meals for little work and without needing a whole lot of growing space.  Livestock will also eat cooked potatoes and chickens will eat potato peelings (although I really don’t ever peel the potatoes unless I absolutely have to ’cause doing so removes half the nutrition..) as long as they are not green, compost any green peelings along with the dead potato plants once you dig the potatoes. tatersgonnatate

2 thoughts on “What’s Taters Precious?

  1. You mention nothing about storing them so that they don’t rot, or how long they can be stored/under what conditions… potatoes flummox me, so curious minds would like to know.

    • Yeah, ours usually get used up so fast that I’ve never had a chance to practice storing them for any length of time. But I have read that ideal storage conditions for potatoes are total darkness and plenty of humidity (the fridge is too dry..) and around 40F…you can go slightly warmer than 40F, I wouldn’t recommend more than 50F though as long as they are kept in complete darkness so that they don’t sprout. But definitely don’t store them colder than 40F or let them freeze. A root cellar is most ideal, but anywhere in the house or outbuildings where these conditions exist would be fine. I’ve read about people storing them in cardboard boxes covered with old wool blankets to keep them warm. I think the main key is keeping them away from light, don’t let them dry out and don’t let them freeze 🙂

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