So, as we slid closer to the other side of summer gardening season, new questions start to crop up.
One I have been asked about is... how do you know when to harvest your potatoes? Especially when they look like this:
I mean seriously - how can you see those blooms and not be thinking... can I eat these yet? Such a good question - how do we know our potatoes are ready for eating?
So, you probably planted your potatoes much earlier this year. Don't know much about growing potatoes? Let's start there then.
You'll want to plant seed potatoes, rather than just grocery store ones, even organics. I've found that even with the organic ones (the non-organics are treated to keep them from sprouting), the yield isn't great and sometimes the potatoes never really get big.
So, consider purchasing some seed potatoes from a reputable provider. You can't (I think) ship potatoes across the border so buy from your own country. Ideally, you'd want to get them well before it's time to plant. That way, you can chit them well in advance of planting. I've seen two explanations of chitting -one is to just let them be in a light place and grow long shoots; the other is when you cut them into quarters and let the sides harden a bit before planting. Either way, get them well before planting, and place them in an egg carton with the most eyes up. By the way the side with the most eyes is called the rose. So, plant them rose side up.
Once they eyes have grown to about an inch long, plant them out according to your local calendar and their variety - there are earlies, mids, and lates. Smart planters want all three :)
And yes they're a bit sensitive to frost but you can mitigate that by covering them in a bit of row cover.
So, you can plant them a few ways.
You can plant them old school - in depressions that allow you to mound up soil around them as they grow. Or newer school - in a container. Either way, adding dirt as they grow up will mean more potatoey deliciousness for you.
Continue to water regularly and mound up the soil.
With earlies, you can start digging (carefully - use your hands not a shovel) for new potatoes once you see the blooms fully open and definitely once they're dropping off. The longer you wait, the larger the potatoes get.
With maincrops (as the mids- and lates are called) you're supposed to wait until the foliage starts to turn yellow and gives up. And then 10-14 days after that (depends on who you ask) you can lift them.
I am not the best at keeping track of which type is which so I'm often scrabbling around the base of the plants once the blooms are visible. Also - I love potatoes and by the time they're blooming, I'm so excited that I just need to eat some fresh from the garden.
If you aren't going to devour them straight away, you're best to leave them sitting out to dry before storing. This helps to harden the skin and preserve them.
Best ways to eat potatoes? I love new potatoes boiled and then tossed with a bit of butter and fresh herbs from the garden. I also love potatoes roasted, baked, and mashed. I just love them and that's all there is to say about that.