Tuesday, July 13, 2010


The next time you reach for your potatoes and find that they have long, knubbly white shoots reaching back at you, don’t despair. This is a very good sign you’ll be growing some potatoes, because these snaky things are potato roots

Once, when our son, Kip, was young enough still to be called “Kippy,” he had seen a show on TV that talked about the commercial raising of chickens, and the many eggs they laid. He came into the kitchen with a thoughtful look on his face, and climbed up on a chair to see what I was cooking. As it happens, I was peeling potatoes. He watched for a while, and then asked me, “Mommy, what lays potatoes?” I blinked, frowned, smiled and said, “Excuse me?” He repeated the question: “What lays potatoes? Chickens lay eggs. What lays potatoes?”

I hugged him and thought about what a good question that was, for a little boy not even four years old. Then I explained the difference between egg-laying creatures and (sort of) egg-shaped veggies. He looked rather disappointed, and I finally realized that I had better grow some potatoes—and pretty quick, too--before he made some kind of nest somewhere for whatever fabled creature he imagined was laying our potatoes.

Here’s how to grow your own potatoes if you only have a small back yard or even a terrace or concrete-floored porch (in which case you will need something underneath the container to catch the fluids that will develop):

Take an empty wooden or plastic barrel, keg or even a stack of old automobile tires. Sounds silly. Isn’t. Wash them well, rinse them, and knock both ends out of the barrel or keg. Lay the container on some newspaper, and put about 9”—12” of good rich soil on the bottom. If you're on actual soil, be sure to dig the underlayment well.

Now take your sprouted potatoes and lay them right on the soil. Some people ‘chit’ their potatoes to make as many separate ‘seeds’ as possible. ‘Chit’ them by cutting the potatoes apart, leaving at least one ‘eye’ or shoot to each portion. Dry them for a day or two—depending on your weather and climate—until a greyish skin grows over them. This prevents molding and rotting. Then use these chits on your soil or, preferably, in your garden.

In the well-dug garden, people usually mound up the dirt around the potato plants as they grow, to give the stems more places to grow tubers (‘potatoes,’ to us). But in the barrel, keg or tire stack, you can simply keep on adding straw, hay, dry grass or whatever as the plants grow taller. Just be sure to keep the soil watered: “moist but not wet” is the key. Mound the soil, hay or whatever up to the last six leaves, leaving those free at the top.

The plants should keep growing until they reach to top of the container. They finally will die off as the weather gets colder, and their leaves will yellow and die. When that happens, stand by with a big garbage bag and a basket or bowl for the potatoes, because you’re going to lift away the container and carefully pull back the dried grass or hay. Put the dried grass or hay into the bag, and then into the compost bin if you have one. There should be left lots of small potatoes—and perhaps some good sized ones—for you, and all you need do is dry them a few days in the shade. Not only will you have free potatoes that you know absolutely have no poisonous chemical on them, but your children will always know where potatoes come from.

never in the sun, for that develops solanin, a poisonous substance that turns the skin and flesh green and renders them inedible. Dry them in the shade and you’re fine. .

Dry the potatoes for a few days out of sun and rain—say three or four days—and then use them in this recipe:


8-9 large, mealy potatoes, such as ‘bakers’
I whole head of garlic
1 (8 oz) container sour cream or diet substitute
¾ c—1 c fresh minced parsley
2—4 Tbsps olive oil
Salt and pepper* to taste


Peel the potatoes and cut into 1” dice. Slice the top of the garlic head, place on an oven-proof pan or dish, and drench with 2 Tbsps of the olive oil. Cover with an oven-proof bowl and bake at 350* for ½-1 hour, testing every 15 minutes for tenderness. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Overcooked garlic looks and tastes like old leather. When it is very soft and tender but not brown, remove from the oven and reserve until they cool.

Check your potatoes—they should be done by now. Strain them into a bowl—DO NOT lose the potato water; it’s great for making sourdough bread, wonderful for chowder (that’s another post), and super—when cooled--for watering your alkaline-loving bulbs. Just put it in a gallon-sized ice cream bucket—or several smaller containers--and freeze it.

Mash your garlic in a small bowl with the remaining 2 Tbsps of olive oil until it is an even, smooth slurry. Pour this over your potatoes. Add the sour cream or substitute. Mash them all together with a potato masher (back in the Depression, we kept a clean Coca Cola bottle for mashing veggies) until it’s all well-mixed. Leave a few lumps. Add the parsley, salt, and black or white pepper, if you like, and you’re done!

Serve this with roast beef, Cajun or other meat loaf, or pork chops, with steamed broccoli-and-lemon juice, glazed carrots, and lemon pie for dessert. Oh—a tomato aspic instead of a salad can also be invited; but if you don’t "speak aspic," lettuce wedges are good, too. Enjoy!


Remember to let me know what you think of the recipes, and of the blog in general! If there is something you’ve always wanted to cook, or grow, or both, let me know and I’ll do a post on it. This is a gift from me to you, and as with all gifts, I’d like it to be something you really want.

Thanks, and God love you!


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