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Scrabbling for potatoes

Pulling potatoes

Thursdays are potato harvest days. Without a walk-in cooler, the main weekly harvest for CSA and Saturday farmers’ market is mostly confined to Fridays, with potatoes being one of the few crops that can be done a day or two ahead. Towards the end of the season, we dig up all the remaining spuds in one shot, but until then, it’s easier to go weekly. And since I don’t sell potatoes in bulk, curing them for storage is not an issue. It’s a tiny harvest, and the method of choice goes with it. Simply pull up each plant—they’re at 12″ (30cm) spacing—and scrabble around! Fingers work great. I used to use a digging fork, but that’s more work than it’s worth, and potatoes often get skewered. By hand, it takes 20-30 minutes per bushel (about 50lbs/23kg), really fast this year with quite huge potatoes after all the rain, and sometimes stretching to maybe 40 minutes if they’re small and the ground is drier and harder (this’ll happen in a really dry year, where potatoes get little or no irrigation). When the ground is dry, especially in clayey soil like ours that can get really hard, a hand tool like a trowel or tined cultivator can be good to break things up here and there after pulling. I kind of like how primitive the method is, and most people who try it REALLY seem to enjoy it. For the 2-3 bushels we need most weeks, it’s quick and effective! The variety here is Chieftain…

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One Comment

  1. I use this method with kids, both at school and at home, and they LOVE it! It’s like finding buried treasure. ?Dirty hands are no big deal, and also every kids is happy to have a big feed of steamed spuds after picking them themselves….

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