Working the new potatoes

Scrabbling for new potatoes

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…

New potatoes: red Chieftan and Penta

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!

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10 Responses to “Working the new potatoes”

  1. Lisa A. says:

    Now this looks like my kind of fun! They look delicious. I plan on growing some potatoes in a big plastic trashcan next year and just dumping them out when they’re ready. You only need about 500 trashcans to make it feasible on the tiny farm. :)

  2. Mike (tfb) says:

    Lisa: Will Allen is growing salad mix in 25,000 pots on his urban farm in Milwaukee, so 500 trash cans doesn’t sound so hard…! (His is actually the coolest tiny farming story I’ve read in a while—worth the trouble of the free registration if you have to sign in.)

  3. YUM! You customers will be so happy! Kim

  4. jim says:

    Hi just wondered if you ever get troubled by blight like we do here in the UK. This warm wet weather is just perfect for it here,
    jim

  5. Becky says:

    I can’t wait to try to grow potatoes next year. I’ll have to try your trick for getting a few early treats. I love your blog! Thanks for the info and the inspiration!

  6. Natalie says:

    I just got some new potatoes dug out the other night. Yum! Love your site.

  7. SP says:

    http://www.flypmedia.com/issues/plus/17/#1/1
     
    Interesting story- thought everyone may enjoy it.

  8. Matron says:

    What a great idea! sometimes I don’t want a whole plant dug up. If I do dig a whole plant up, I don’t use all of them and they stay in a dark cupboard and I forget about them!

  9. shinerbock says:

    Potatoes are looking great, I thought I was the only one that planted so many. Beautiful garden!

  10. Michelle says:

    We do ours the same way! The worst part is getting stains all over our skin from digging in the composted horse manure… then swimming to cool down and watching the stains turn bright yellow. Ew! The best part? You already know. *burp*

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