The potato is an important staple food in many peoples' diets. Potatoes are rich in vitamins B and C, potassium, protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. Talk about a lot of wonderful packed in a small thing! Since potatoes can be prepared so many ways, you can eat them year round and not grow tired of them. Boiled, baked, mashed or fried, there are endless ways to utilize potatoes. Knowing all of this, I of course wanted to grow my own. I was delighted when my aunt gave me some money for my birthday, because I knew exactly what I was going to use it for.... Seed tator!!
Since I learned many useful things this year in my little potato patch, I thought I would share them with you. From the comical to the practical, here is what tators taught me.....
1.) Not all tators are created equal! Sure the tators you buy at the grocery store do sprout if you leave them too long, but there are dirty little secrets about store tators you may not know! And when I say dirty, I do not mean soil! Most commercial grown tators are sprayed with chemicals to slow and inhibit sprouting. This gives them a longer shelf life. Also, you don't know if those store tators have GMOs! Some tators have been modified so that they bruise less easy. So I just played it safe and picked me up some unsprayed, non GMO seed tators.
2.) Different tators are good for different things. Some tators excel at roasting, others rock in the fryer..... so how are you to know which potato is best for what you are doing? Which potatoes should you grow!?!?!?!
- Starchy potatoes (russets and many sweet potatoes): Great for baking and frying as they are absorbent.
- Waxy potatoes (red-skinned and fingerling potatoes): These potatoes are great for soups and salads because they hold their shape well during cooking.
- All-purpose potatoes (Yukon Gold, blue, and purple potatoes): Good for roasting, mashing or baking.
3.) There are many ways to grow tators! Everyone seems to have an opinion about which way is best. In a container, in straw, in dirty.... the options seem endless. Some people claim using compost with animal manure in it will cause a potato disease called “scab”. Most old timer will tell you to heap on the poo! Growing tators is really a trial and error, what work best for YOU, kind of crop! I learned a few things about my chosen method which was in the ground in dirt, with compost that had poo......
Things I learned......
- My soil sucks! Tators need deep, loose, well drained soil. Even tough I tilled, my soil is just too compact! And it didn't help that we had torrential downpours every other day. Next year, I will be adding in some straw.
- Placing your tator patch is a strategic thing. Tators need full sun, which mine had, till the corn patch grew and started blocking the sun for half the day.
- Tators are not a "set it and forget it" crop. These divas need to be pampered! You see, every time the plant grows about 6 inches tall, you have to hill them. Hilling is when you mound up dirt or straw so that just the tops of the plant is visible. And yes, you will hill multiple times during the growing season.
- Tators need to be watered regularly during the growing season. Too bad I didn't know my soil sucked and wasn't draining as it should. So, on top of the torrential downpours my poor plants had to endure, they had to put up with me watering them too. *smacks forehead* I am sorry tators!
- Mosquitoes LOVE to hang out in tator plants! Maybe it is just my garden, I don't know, but my plants were infested with them. Every time I went to hill, it was like going to war. I swear I lost a lot of blood this summer because every mosquito in a five mile radius was living in my tator patch.
4.) Harvesting tators is rewarding, frustrating and an adventure! When fall finally rolls around, it is time to harvest your tators. How will you know they are ready? Because the plants will yellow and start dying back. When you dig down and find that first tator..... a tator YOU grew, it is like winning the jackpot!!!
Your children will have lots of fun with all the new worm friends you will unearth.
You will get dirt on your boobs, well if you are a girl, because you will either accidentally wipe your hand there, or if you are like me, you are a full contact gardener! As I said before, my method and weather did not cooperate, so when it came time to harvest, we had a lot of smaller tators and they were few and far between. It became an archaeological excavation at one point because I did not want to miss finding any of my precious tators, so I may or may not have been laying on my boobs, digging carefully in my tator trenches.
Yiou will beam with pride at your haul. There is nothing more satisfy then providing food for your family! Even if this year, the haul was kinda small.
And dispite the set backs, I WILL be giving tators another go. Trial and error, learn a little, adapt, and plant again! And next year, I want to plant blue potatoes. Why? Because I got some from a friend and yes, they are blue when you cut them, but they get a little purple when you mash them, and purple is my favorite color!
Do you grow tators? What works for you? What are your favorite varieties? Do you have the mosquito issue too? LOL Share what tators have taught you!