Digging potatoes is always an adventure, somewhat akin to fishing. There is forever the possibility that the next cast — or the next thrust of the digging fork — will turn up a clunker. — Author Jerome Belanger
The simple act of farming – even on a small scale – creates a whole new appreciation of food. Even the lowly potato becomes more enticing when you have to dig it yourself!
I discovered this first-hand last weekend, when I dug my first crop of potatoes. It was a sweaty, exhausting job and I have the blisters to prove it. But my reward was two five-gallon buckets of red and Yukon Gold potatoes.
My parents typically grow the Kennebec variety, but I wanted to try Yukon Gold because I love the creamy texture and buttery taste. It turns out that Yukon Gold produces well in Kentucky, as does the red potato variety.
I have to say that planting potatoes in the spring is much easier than digging them in the fall. In fact, apart from mounding the dirt around the plants, the whole planting process was a breeze. My dad, who is an avid gardener, says he’s always hated digging potatoes. And as his dutiful daughter, I have to agree. I’ll probably do it again next year, but only because the blisters will have healed by then and I’ll likely have forgotten how miserable I was during the process.
The whole job probably took two hours. Once I dug up the rows, we piled the potatoes into buckets. I was happy to see that most of the plants produced five or more potatoes per hill, although some of them were small. My parents helped pick through them, discarding any rotten ones. We placed the larger potatoes into milk crates so that they could cure in a dark place until they’re stored for the winter.
My dad explained that a lot of people discard the tiny potatoes, but that I shouldn’t do that because there’s nothing wrong with them. We separated out the smallest ones so that I could take them home and boil them.
Potatoes suffer from a bad reputation because they’re mostly consumed in the United States as French fries or as baked potatoes loaded with sour cream and butter. But they’re actually a healthy, low calorie, high fiber food with a lot of nutritional value. They’re a good source of vitamin B6, potassium, copper, vitamin C, manganese and phosphorus. They also contain a variety of phytonutrients and have antioxidant qualities. In other words, they’re good for you if you don’t fry them or drown them in butter.
Taking my dad’s advice to heart, I took the tiny potatoes home that night and washed and scrubbed them. Then I tossed them into a pot of salted boiling water. The preparation was simple. Once they were cooked through, I tossed them in a small amount of butter and added fresh chopped parsley, salt and pepper. I told my husband they would be the best potatoes he’d ever tasted! And to his credit, he said they were wonderful.