Growing and Cooking with Potatoes and Garlic

These tips will guide you in growing the best potatoes and garlic, and show you how to prepare a few simple potato recipes and delicious garlic recipes.

| October/November 2015

Potatoes and garlic, together or separately, are pillars of the kitchen. Of the major carbohydrate crops of the world — wheat, rice, corn and potato — the homely spud is the easiest for a home gardener to grow in a meaningful amount. And for adding flavor to daily fare, earthy and pungent garlic is almost as essential as salt. “Why should I grow either, when they’re cheap to buy and easy to store? What would a fresh harvest add?” you might ask. Growing your own allows you to try out unusual colors or varieties, such as blue or fingerling potatoes, that are seldom commercially available, and to choose organic seed garlic and potatoes if you wish. Their flavors may not be as fleeting as that of just-picked corn, but after you’ve tasted just-dug potatoes or tender fresh garlic heads from the summer harvest, you’ll look forward to them each year.

Growing Potatoes

Seed potatoes are those specifically for planting. You can find them at many garden centers and mail-order companies, or save them from year to year. They can be whole, or cut into pieces that each include at least one eye.

Put them in the ground when grass starts to grow, no earlier than two weeks before your last anticipated frost date, spaced 12 inches apart and 3 inches deep. Chitting potatoes, or pre-sprouting them on a tray in a warm, bright place, will give them a head start.

When your plants reach about 6 inches tall, hill up potatoes with soil or mulch deeply with straw to protect them from sunlight and keep them from turning green and bitter. Though mulch may attract voles, which nibble the tubers, it does help keep the soil moist — a good defense against another important pest, the Colorado potato beetle. Reduce the beetle population by rotating your potato crop; laying spun-bonded polyester row covers over your potatoes after planting; and picking off any eggs, larvae and winged adults.

As soon as you see beautiful pink, lavender or white flowers on the plants, work your fingers into the earth around them to grabble out a few exquisite “baby news.” Then harvest as needed, keeping the bulk of your potatoes in the ground even after the foliage dies down. Light, fluffy soil, rich in organic matter, makes potatoes easy to dig with your hands. Be sure to keep them well-mulched and covered to prevent sun rot and, later, damage from light frosts. Dig remaining potatoes when hard frost is forecast and store them in the cellar, or whatever dark, humid, cool-but-frost-free spot you can find.

Ask local gardeners which potato varieties do well for them. Our favorite for an early new-potato harvest is a round, red-skinned, yellow-fleshed one called ‘Rose Gold’ from Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, Maine. For the firmer baking type, we love the brown-skinned, yellow-fleshed ‘Charlotte’ from Potato Garden in Austin, Colorado. The widely available ‘Kennebec’ is a good all-purpose potato.

10/20/2015 12:57:39 PM

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