Our First Potato Harvest + A Few Lessons Learned
If you are familiar with Texas and its crazy mood swing weather patterns, then you know how important it is to take advantage of the outdoors before the 100+ summer temps hit. Currently, it's May and already things are heating up with some pretty solid 80 and 90 degree temps. Despite this, we had a random (but welcome) mini cold front a few weeks back, so we took the opportunity to spend the morning in the garden for our first... drum roll please... POTATO HARVEST!
Disclaimer: The word harvest is a little underwhelming in relation to what our "crop" actually looks like. I would call it more of a small gathering of potatoes rather than a true "harvest."
I don't know about you, but I never knew how potatoes grow. In fact, I'm in the dark as to how many of the fruits and vegetables I eat and enjoy come into existence. For example, since we started our garden three months ago, I've learned what onions, garlic, squash, zucchini, and cucumbers really look like when they grow. More importantly, I've learned how and why these delicious plants grow the way they do.
I'm not going to get on my soap box, because that is not what this blog post is about, but I will say this: I think it's a little sad we have lost so much knowledge about where our food comes from and what it takes to feed almost 9 billion people on this planet. The food we grow in our garden is leaps and bounds more colorful, fragrant, and flavorful than the stuff I find at the grocery store... including organic produce. And I wonder why it can't always be like this? Why can't everyone have a small garden? I wish everyone, not just gardening enthusiasts, could experience how amazing the food growing process is.
So I'll leave those thoughts there and move on to what I really wanted to share with you today: growing and harvesting potatoes.
STEP ONE: SPROUT OLD POTATOES
I'm sorry to say, but I didn't have the forethought at the time to snap pictures of the starter potatoes... but here is the gist of it.
- Take a few potatoes and put them on a plate in a dark-ish corner.
- Forget about them for a few weeks.
- Remember the potatoes and then check to see if any "eyes" are sprouting.
- Once there is a fair amount of growth, cut the eyes off and lay out on a towel to dry. It takes about a day or so.
- Once dried, the potato pieces are ready to be planted eyes facing up in soil.
STEP TWO: PLANT THE POTATO "EYES" IN LARGE CONTAINERS
We used these sturdy, water permeable bags to plant our potatoes in. After harvesting we realized we probably should have used something much bigger... like a large plastic tub or something. We still got potatoes, but they were much smaller than they could have been because we didn't allow enough space for them to grow.
You can also plant potatoes straight into the ground, but you'll first need to test the soil for contaminants. It wasn't even an option for us, because most of the soil in our yard is clay (it's too compact for veggies to grow properly).
Fun fact: According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest potato grown was 7 pounds 1 ounce by J. East (1953) and J. Busby (1982) of Great Britain.
STEP THREE: WATCH YOUR POTATOES GROW
Much to my surprise, potatoes are big bushy plants with these beautiful purple flowers that grow right before they are ready to harvest. I'm actually a little sad when I look outside now, because they added a lush fullness to the perimeter of our garden.
Although potato plants grow pretty quickly, it takes about three months for the plant to reach maturity. You'll know the potatoes are ready to harvest once the flowers and leaves start shriveling up and dying.
STEP FOUR: HARVEST YOUR POTATOES
If you plant potatoes directly into the ground, you'll probably need a pitchfork to dig them up. If you use a container like us, then it's pretty painless and quick.
First, you'll need to lay down a large plastic tarp...
Next, trim off all of the potato stalks...
Then you dump the containers out onto the tarp.
p.s. Toddlers are great at helping pick potatoes!
And that's it! Simply stash your harvested potatoes in a pot or bucket and enjoy! We roasted ours with some olive oil, salt, and pepper and it was DELICIOUS. They seriously tasted creamy like butter.
I hope you decide to give growing potatoes a try sometime too. The season for growing here in Texas is just after the last spring frost (around March 15). However, one potato plant can yield up to 10 potatoes. So if you stagger your planting a bit, you can have a steady supply of fresh potatoes all through May and potentially June.