Dug up 40 lbs of Yukon Gold potatoes, to see how they were doing, and for this week’s harvest shares. Not a bad haul for 50′, planted late, at the end of June, but they still have some growing to do. We’re harvesting spuds in our usual labor-intensive way, with a digging fork, then scrabbling around by hand. Slow but fun. One drawback: with newer potatoes, scraping, prying fingers can tear up those delicate skins. Here, we did pretty well.
Digging up the very last of the Jerusalem artichoke, this is pretty much the final harvest of the year, besides a little kale and maybe a last few tiny cauliflower and cabbage. The few remaining feet of the original 50′ (15m) double row yielded about half a bushel. Not bad. Plenty for spring planting, and some to experiment with in the winter kitchen (I still haven’t fully figured out the eating part of chokes, I’ve steamed and roasted, the texture is nice, the taste mild, but the JA’s true culinary delights have yet to be revealed to me).
Anyhow, despite many freezing nights, the ground is still perfectly soft, and the harvest is all just pulling chokes, with the digging fork around only to turn the nearby soil in search of tubers that strayed from the conveniently compact root ball. Quick and easy, and the season in this field is suddenly…done!
It’ll be hard to top THIS one for extremely labor-intensive tiny farming involving lots of peeps! Here, Libby, Lynn, Andie, and Mel hand-dig potatoes for tomorrow’s farmers’ market. The taters happen to be Gold Rush russets, and they’re in fine form, with a little wireworm damage (surface blemishes or tiny holes) to only a few. We’re right at the end of the first (of three) potato areas of this year, 600′ (183 m), evenly divided between Penta, Chieftan and Gold Rush.
So, what’s with all these people, digging together in a cluster, with just one bin? A little inefficient, pehaps? Well, not really. When there’s a lot of folks happy to mix it up with the dirt, tackling a single task all together can work out! We only needed about 70 lbs of each variety (that blue bin full). With the moist-but-not-mucky soil, pulling plants and scrabbling around was quick and easy. BIG POTATOES helped. Working close together wasn’t a problem because we had so little area to cover. Each bin got filled in maybe 15 minutes. Satisfying!
In the photo, you can also see how relatively good shape we’re in with weeds. The bit of grass growing back is in separate clumps, all the runners haven’t started to reach out and hook up. Further up is a section of more heavily overgrown onions. But that’s actually doing well as well: the onions were thoroughly weeded twice, and hoed a couple more times, so what you see is mainly grass from the last three weeks (without much shading out from the onion plants, everything else grows fast!).
Anyhow, when we tackle the main potato patch, around 2,000′ (609 m), methods will change. But we’ll still be digging in the dirt…!
Another installment in the crazily labor-intensive tiny farming techniques series: Andie and Jordan in action, hand-digging for new potatoes without uprooting the plants! This one is hard to top for stunningly low hours-to-yield ratio. It makes picking peas and beans seem like something that goes by quick. Of course, for all its slowness, it has its rewards: beautiful little, amazingly fresh and tasty, new potatoes…and the plants still get to grow some more! Plus, if you don’t have to do it forever, it’s a lot of fun…
The “technique” is simple (and well-suited to the home veggie garden, but not too scalable). Gently feel around the base of the plant for anything that’s golf ball-sized or bigger (this batch is golf ball to XL egg). Stick to the surface, don’t dig too deep, and try not to break the single roots connected to other, littler, potatoes (you’ll easily feel the stringy roots). When you’re done, hill up the earth you’ve moved aside, and it’s on to the next one. That’s our method. ;)
Yield today was pretty good, about 2-3 per plant, and about 40 lbs (18kg) in all. Won’t go into the time per plant and the weight per tater…because I didn’t. Maybe a peaceful hour or so, with three people. We only did this for a CSA share treat, because today it worked out that we had the time. There are red skin/white flesh Chieftan, and yellow-flesh, Yukon Gold-like Penta.
The only downside to the hand scrabbling method: the delicious, delicate skins get quite roughed up. We’ll soon start pulling whole plants for young potatoes, and that tends to leave the skins in better shape (and goes MUCH faster).
Anyhow, slow food, for sure. Tasty!
There’s still about 1,000′ of potatoes to dig, a few Yukon Gold, lots of Kennebec, and maybe a bed of Chieftain. This time around, it’s a bit of an unconventional approach. Some beds were kinda…weedy, so a week back, I mowed them all down. Now, the trick is to find the rows. Once a couple of plants are located, I run twine between stakes at either end to mark the row for easier digging. Michele and Toshiko were today’s crew, with young Violet checking things out. Simple fieldwork for a pleasantly cool fall day…