One Weird Trick for Growing More Taters, Precious

A Weird Trick Tater

I really could not resist that clickbait headline, but, as usual, I have to de-bunk the gardening experts on the interwebs, who say that you absolutely have to buy certified seed taters, instead of supermarket ones. The trick is knowing what supermarket taters to buy.

It’s really only simple science. Standard commercially grown potatoes are sprayed with a growth retardant to prolong shelf life, namely isopropyl N-(3-chlorophenyl) carbamate (CIPC also referred as chlorpropham). It’s actually a herbicide that was introduced in 1951. Pass me the herbicide coated spuds, mom.

No thanks. Certified organic taters sprout like crazy, as in the one pictured above. I took that photo this morning. The only tricks are good soil, compost, and plenty of water–try 9.8″ of rain in the past ten days. In other words, good growing techniques.

You can also Save a Few of those Taters as Seed

This strapping young plant grew from a foot long sprout from a supermarket potato I planted last year. Eight plants came up from a single sprout. Nothing beats free organic taters.

Spargelzeit (Asparagus Time)

Maybe free Asparagus does. This one year plant came from some nice crowns I just bought. All it has to do is get fat and happy over the next couple of years.

I really should get rid of all those bi-colored wild violets in the patch, but they’re blooming now. I guess I’m just a sucker for a pretty flower, and possibly for a pretty face.

Taters in the Ground, Precious

Taters Planted, now Grow, Little Taters

In true Appalachian fashion, we have gone from temps in the high teens last week, to approaching eighty this week. Time to get those taters in the ground.

Something of a note on climate here, and global warming (anthropogenic climate disturbance), in general. The USDA keeps moving us back and forth among hardiness zones, depending on which way the political winds are blowing. Therefore, I follow the thermometer, instead of the bureaucrats.

With the exception of one night, we have had a zone 9 winter, even though we are up in the mountains. Even that night was marginally zone 8, at 18 degrees F. We haven’t seen Zone 7 weather for 15 or 20 years.

The lowest forecast night time temp for the next week is more than ten degrees above freezing, so these jokers should get a good start. I have one row of sprouted tubers that we grew last year, some had sprouts that were a good foot long.

The other row is sprouted organic potatoes that I bought at our best supermarket. I was going to buy real seed potatoes, but no one here had them yet. WHAT! This is the South, dopesticks.

I buried them all in composted chicken manure. I’m going to try a new fertilizer this year, just because I love the name of it–Moorganite. It’s a combo of composted cow and chicken stuff. Strong to quite strong. That’s 45 garlic plants on the left of the pic. Taters and garlic, anyone?

First New Taters, Precious

Butter, Anyone?

Tater digging time has arrived down here, and there will be lots of them. The first few plants yielded four different taters.

There are two yellow varieties in the bucket, and they are Gold Rush, and the standby Yukon Gold. The reds are Norland Red, which is quite attractive, so much so that I think I will eat them. The classic Russet rounds out this group.

I did very little for these roots except treat them with soil sulphur, to keep them from rotting, and a handful of organic fertilizer. With that little effort, we will be in taters for the rest of the summer. That’s taters, not tatters, though I do a really great Mick Jagger imitation, singing “Shattered.”

Planting Taters, Precious

The Dutch have Invaded My Tater Patch

After almost three months of non-stop rain, it finally dried up enough for me to plant my taters. We already have had our yearly average rainfall total and it is only the end of March. At least all the moisture made it easy to dig the trenches with a real old style tool.

Scovil Pattern Hoe

That hoe is usually reserved for mixing concrete, but it will move some earth as well. I planted four varieties of taters.

Yukon Gold (Six Pounds)

Red Norland (Five pounds)

Gold Rush (A New Variety for me. One Pound)

Russet (One Pound)

That made two and a half rows. The delay in planting meant that all the taters had sprouted well, which made it easy to use the classic American method of cutting in half any tuber that had more than four eyes on it, and every Red Norland did. Every cut tater was dipped in agricultural lime.

After I aligned my trenches with my homemade garden string combo, I lined each one with crushed egg shells for calcium, and pelletized lime for more calcium and magnesium. The final touch will be to top dress them all with some composted chicken manure. That will be my only source for nitrogen, until they leaf out, and then they get some liquid Alaska fish fertilizer.

Hopefully, the taters will no longer smell of rotten fish when I dig them.

Beef Stew Al Fresco

Is Al Fresco related to Al Pacino?

This is nothing but a simple beef stew, but it was cooked in a cast iron camping Dutch Oven over an open fire, which always makes everything taste better. I will disclose the small wrinkles which add layers and layers to the dish. First, marry-nate some cubed up chuck roast, in red wine, salt, and pepper. I left mine in the fridge overnight, and then browned it in some home rendered lard, over some blazing heat.

The One Spoon

It helped that I had the One Spoon to cook with, which I got from a small fellow with furry feet. He told me it was the one spoon to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them. Actually, I made that monstrosity out of some Carolina Buckthorn, a weed tree if there ever was one. It’s almost as long as my Amish made fireplace poker. It does keep your hands away from the fire.

Deglaze

I threw in a whole chopped onion, cooked it, and deglazed the whole thing with some apple wine that was mysteriously sitting next to my fire pit, and the red wine marinade. Who would have guessed?

Milled Tomatoes

The next step is to add milled tomatoes, and cook for an hour or two. Throw a lid on that thing, to conserve heat.

This is Merely Medium Sized

I’ve always thought of Dutch Ovens as something like primitive pressure cookers, because it takes some serious steam to leak through that massive lid. The last ingredients are salt, pepper, carrots, and naturally, taters, precious.

Ready to Stew

It would take another good hour to finish this, so I just went back to work on my great American novel, which is closing to a finish. If only it was as good as this stew turned out to be.

Creole Shrimp Boil

Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez!

This is something of an empty out the spice cabinet dish, and a boil can have everything from crayfish, shrimp and sausage, to artichokes and corn. Since this was for two, we stuck with the basics of shrimp, sweet corn, and new potatoes.

Shrimp Boil

Ingredients

For the Boil:

Water to cover the Ingredients (2 Quarts here)

1 teaspoon Thyme

1 teaspoon Oregano

Cayenne Pepper Flakes to taste

2 tablespoons Salt

6 Cloves

6 Allspice

2 Bay Leaves

1 teaspoon Dill Seed

1 teaspoon Fennel Seed

And anything else you like. Cover, and bring this mixture to a rolling boil. Turn it off, and let it steep for awhile. If you have a cold, stick your face down in the vapor. If it’s well seasoned, it will clear your head out.

For the Edibles:

4 new Potatoes (we have 2 Red and 2 Yukon Gold)

2 ears Sweet Corn (these are Silver Queen)

1/2 pound+ Shrimp, deveined (we usually use Gulf shrimp, but these are Florida Keys shrimp)

Boil the potatoes for 30-35 minutes, then add the corn. Cook for 8 more, and add the shrimp. In about a minute or two, the shrimp will curl up and turn opaque, which means they are done. Strain in a colander, and serve in a bowl with a rustic paper towel lining.

Have beaucoup amounts of butter for the corn and potatoes. Our favorite condiments are cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, and Chinese hot mustard. If the boil didn’t clear out your sinuses, a combination of hot mustard and cayenne flakes surely will.

Veg and Fruit

Farmers of the World Unite

 “I have lived temperately, eating little animal food, & that, not as an aliment so much as a condiment for the vegetables, which constitute my principal diet.”–Thomas Jefferson

More Taters, Precious

Just out of the Ground

I now have a couple of months worth of new potatoes, because I grew these myself. Those in the picture are Yukon Gold and Russet potatoes. It’s next to impossible to buy potatoes of this quality. You have to grow them yourself.

With that said, hereby hangs a tale, as Shakespeare might have written. I come from a line of many generations of potato farmers, and my grandfather Earnie claimed to have started the sweet potato industry in Alabama. Here’s the story.

During the 1920’s, farmers from the South would travel to Northern industrial cities to work during the winter. Folks from Cullman would go to Cincinnati to be among their fellow German descended folks. Factory work paid better than sitting on your butt all winter.

Factory owners caught on to this migration, and instituted a rule that no one who quit to work at a higher paying factory could be re-hired by another one. Before the days of Social Security numbers and other ID, my grandfather just used a different name, every time he moved from factory to factory.

He would also look for markets for anything he grew. One day he ran across a grocery wholesaler who was really interested. Here’s how he would describe the conversation:

Wholesaler: “So what do you grow down there in Alabama?”

Earnie: “Our main crop is strawberries.”

Wholesaler: “Too perishable. They’d be rotten by the time they got up here.”

Earnie: “We also grow lots of sweet potatoes.”

Wholesaler: “Sweet potatoes! Oy vey! I can never get enough sweet potatoes. I’ll take three carloads.”

Earnie: “I’ll get three guys to bring up three carloads.”

Wholesaler: “No, I want three train carloads. That will just be the start.”

And thusly every sweet potato in the county was sold, and an industry born. The first time I walked into our first Whole Foods store, I saw a big sign that said “Local Sweet Potatoes,” next to the picture of a farmer I went to high school with. Taters run deep.