Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Sometime in June and before the first
week in July it is time to dig potatoes in the Ozarks. By this time
of year the days are hot, so making an early morning chore of the
digging is a pretty good idea. It's a lot more fun and the work goes
quicker if the whole family pitches in to help and have fun finding
all the hidden treasures!
When I was growing up I helped plant
and dig up potatoes in this very garden. We grow a whole lot less
potatoes then we did then, though, because my family doesn't eat near
the amount of potatoes and most of what we grow we sell at our local
farmers market. We would grow up to 13, 125 foot, rows of potatoes
when I was young, but now we grow no more than 6 rows. It actually
takes longer to sort and prepare to store the potatoes than it does
to dig them up.
Even though some potatoes are dug up by
hand to enjoy as new potatoes earlier in the season, when we harvest
whole rows I use the tractor with a turn-plow attachment to make the
job a little easier. I like to flip the dirt up from underneath the
entire plant so that the potatoes will be exposed and ready to gather
in buckets. After each row is flipped up and picked over, I usually
take the turn-plow over it once again to make sure there haven't been
any that I missed or if the row wasn't quite straight or I didn't
travel down it quite straight. Then, at the very last, I take the
digger and pull it down the row and find a few more yummy spuds
trying to pass of for stones.
There is no way each potato can be
found in a garden this large. But, I am pretty confident, even with
the turnplow, that the majority of potatoes are found and harvested.
Usually about the same time the
potatoes are ready, the onions become ready to pull out of the
ground. It's important to gather them and either lay them in a
shaded area or bundle and hang them so that their necks will dry out
and cure for longer storage. Make sure that they are not left to
cure in an area with even a little sun, as when they are pulled out
of the ground, they become very vulnerable to sunburn. I have,
through the years, ruined many onions because even a small sunburn
will eventually cause a whole onion to rot prematurely.
A great way to eat some freshly dug
potatoes and sweet onions? Wash and quarter a pound of golf ball
size potatoes and one large sweet onion. In a bowl combine the
potato and onion with ¼ oil, 2 tsp of a favorite seasoned salt (or a
blend of 2 parts salt, 1 part each of pepper, onion powder and
granulated garlic) and a tablespoon of brown or old-fashioned
mustard. Fresh chopped dill weed, parsley, thyme or rosemary are also
great to add at this point. Spread into a lightly greased cookie
sheet and bake in the oven at 350 degrees (turn with a spatula every
10 minutes) for 25-35 minutes or until golden and tender. This is
wonderful with some fresh tomato goulash and fried yellow squash
(dredged in cornmeal and skillet fried).
We had fun harvesting potatoes today,
because we had some helpful family in from Colorado. Don't ever be
surprised if you come for a visit and we put you to work!
Have a great summer day!