I LOVE potatoes. I am not quite sure how I can make you understand my love for them. My grandfather (from my mother’s side) makes the best baked potatoes ever and my grandmother (from my father’s side) makes the best deep fried potatoes ever. And my mom’s fries are pretty great too. To the extend that when I went back to Athens for holidays from the city where I studied, the first food I would ask my mom to make would be fries. And not because I am a junk food junkie.
I need you to believe me when I say that the fact that I ended up living in the Netherlands, where french fries (or Dutch fries) can be found in every other corner, is a coincidence. Here the fries are cut in big chunks and they come with a variety of sauces, ranging from curry ketchup with onions to some very obscure ones including peanut butter and cabbage. Personally I like my fries without sauce. I feel that they become too soft and the sauce disguises their heavenly potatoe-y taste. But that’s just me.
At home we love to cook them with their peel in a pot with just enough water, so that they do not stick at the bottom of the pot, tons of fresh lemon juice, a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. We cook them until they become soft enough to mash them with the fork. This is my comfort food of choice.
So the first post of the “Gorw Your Own” series is dedicated to potatoes. Because they deserve it.
Make sure its spring or early summer and the sun is shinning. Now go buy a big bag of soil for container gardening. If you let the nice people at the store know that you are planning to plant potatoes, they will give you the right one. Buy some slow release fertilizer and a bit of compost as well. You will also need a container, if you are planning to plant the potatoes on your balcony. Otherwise a weed-free patch of land will do. If you do not have any left-over potatoes, get some seed potatoes as well.
Fill your container with soil (at least 40-50 cm high) and add some compost and fertilizer as well. Your fertilizer will have instructions on the package. Follow them otherwise you might “burn” your potatoes.
Time to plant your potatoes. Some people will let the potatoes sprout while others will put them in the ground just the way they are. If you are planning to let your potatoes sprout, always keep them in a dark place, otherwise they will turn green and then they are unsuitable for consumption. Some people will cut larger potatoes into half before planting. Again, it is your choice. You can try different things in one container and see what works best.
Add 5-10 cm of soil above your potatoes and a bit of compost and fertilizer as well. Make sure that no potato parts are exposed to the sunlight. Now water thoroughly. You will need to water your potatoes about once a week. If you over-water them they will get rotten.
Once your potato plants are 10-12 cm high, add some more soil and fertilizer, to promote growth. Much like children, plants need to be nourished in order to grow. My grandmother (from my mother’s side) is confident that her basil plants become so huge because she talks to them and caresses them. There is no scientific proof about it, but I admit that I have never seen basil pots more glorious than hers, so you might as well have a chat with your potato plants, just in case.
Wait for your potatoes to bloom. Potato plant flowers have beautiful colors, ranging from creme to baby blue and vibrant purple. Take some pictures of them, just in case this is going to be the most impressive part of your production.
After your potatoes bloom and about 7-8 weeks after planting, you can harvest your first potatoes. You need to schedule your planting, so that you can harvest before the first frost. This of course depends on where you live.
I hate to disappoint you, but potatoes need a lot of sunshine to thrive, so if you live up North, choose another crop to experiment. You could of course use special lamps, but then you would be wasting energy and that is NOT the spirit of sustainability. We will make a post for gloomy, colder climates later on though, so you will have a chance to see if you have a green thumb.