The Great Potato Harvest. 2013.
Plus, how to store potatoes.

Digging Up


On May 3rd, of this year I did 3 things. Probably more, but we’re just going to discuss 3 of them at this moment.

#1. I planted my potatoes.

#2. I washed my hands.

#3. I waited.

5 months later I did it in reverse.

#1. I stopped waiting.

#2. I dirtied my hands.

#3. I dug up my potatoes.

Behold the Kennebec.

Big Potato

And the Russian Blues.


Russian Blue
And this random picture of a cat wearing a knitted antler hat.



And the Red French Fingerlings.
French Fingerling
I harvested a total of 52 lbs of potatoes this year.

38 pounds of Kennebecs, 10 lbs of fingerlings and 4 pounds of Russian Blues.
Once the potatoes are harvested you have to berate them. Call them names. Put a reindeer hat on them and post it on Instagram. Do whatever you need to do for them to develop a thick skin. Mainly you just need to leave them outside for a couple of hours to dry out, then keep them in a dark, humid area for 2 weeks. For me, this meant drying them on a raised wire rack outside overnight and then storing them in covered wicker baskets outside for a couple of weeks.
Potato Harvest 2013

Since I have air conditioning, outside is much more humid than inside therefore a much better place to cure the potatoes. Curing them in a humid area allows the potatoes to retain all of their moisture while their skins dry out and get tougher. This in turn means your potatoes will store much longer.

Once you’ve cured them you can bring them in the house. They should be stored in something that can breath like a wicker basket or burlap sack. They need to be protected from any light (so the don’t turn green) and kept in the coolest room of the house, which might in fact be your garage. Potatoes store the best when you keep them at 35 – 40 degrees (Fahrenheit). That just means that’s their most favourite conditions. If you store them in a 50 degree room they’ll still last a few months, just not as many as they would if they were kept a bit cooler.

The warmer the room you keep them in, the faster they dry out, and the shorter life span they have. Like a chain smoking, sun worshiper they will become dried out and wrinkled before their time.

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  5. Magpie says:

    Hey, Karen.
    I’m wondering how your potatoes in the ground did, vs. the basket method you tried last year. This year I did a tower (purple chieftans) and also some in-ground (Yukon gem, river John blue, and more purple chieftains). Next year I was thinking of another tower, plus baskets like you did last year, because of my similarly limited space. But maybe I should stick with in-ground?
    You’re right about the tower’s main benefits being about the space and easy harvest. They’re more work, but I would do it again.

    • Karen says:

      Magpie -I did a basket this year as well. They did well. The potatoes are actually cleaner with less scab and pests. They’re easier to harvest too. But I didn’t seem to get as many potatoes as from the ones in the ground. Could have just been a fluke. ~ karen!

      • Gail says:

        Too funny- I brought a potatoe from my garden to work today for lunch! And I am reading this thread and laughing uot loud- (cute Kitty)-!! My second harvest is in the ground and will be ready about the end of October! Love the homegrown- and I do not share- only with my daughters!!!

  6. Amie Mason says:

    Holy Shit! You’ve got potatoes coming out the waaazoo! I had a tiny harvest of Royal Blues… made the best homemade chips I’ve ever had! I wouldn’t share either!

    I’ve just planted Black Congo’s and I’m about to pop in another round of Royal Blues. We can grow potatoes 8-10 months of the year here, depending on summer heat…

  7. kathy says:

    Oh, I love potato pictures. But where is Mr. Potatohead? I have a photo for you but ….I have no clue how to attach it here. It’s my mutant ancient potato discovery…..tho it took few moments before I knew that’s what I had discovered. Got you wondering? let me send you the photo! We ran a contest to i.d. it in the local paper. Nobody did!!!!

  8. Sandy says:

    I think I might just try my hand at growing potatoes next year. Thanks for the info.

  9. Britnee says:

    Thanks for the potato storing tips!

  10. Lisa M says:

    I am curious, how did they not get eaten by squirrels and chipmunks? Or even ground hogs?

  11. Mother ship says:

    Yeah me too/ but I have had some varieties of potatoes seem to have baby potatoes growing in their leaf nodes- makes sense that if these stems were buried- they’ed actually grow into full blown potatoes! But of course I never paid attention to varieties, early/mid/late etc… So wondering if Towers would produce lots with correct varieties! Am trying to pay attention this next year- but you seem like you’d go about it in such a more- shall we say – organized way than I would!

  12. Mother ship says:

    Great spuds! Am VERY. Curious. How many lbs planted of each kind? As in which gave u the most spud for your buck???

    ALSO- regarding failed potato towers(where u plant low & keep covering w/ dirt/compost/etc. as the stems grow)… I’ve “heard from the Internet” that the late potato varieties are the only ones who grow tubers from the stems- the earlies only grow from where the original was planted- & maybe a bit below (& god only knows what the mid season varieties do!)
    So potato towers theoretically only work with late varieties – I just KNOW you want to test, or at least research, this Idea in your copious free time Karen?! & then let us know the TRUTH?

    • Karen says:

      I’ve always been a bit sceptical of those potato towers. My guess is you don’t harvest any more than if you’d planted them in a regular potato hill. To me the benefit would be good use of space and easy harvesting. I’ll look back on my records and get everyone an answer on the how many I planted thing. ~ karen!

  13. kerry says:

    Yes please, how many did you start with? Thanks!

  14. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    They are gorgeous..Enjoy!

  15. Lauren from Winnipeg says:

    Hi, Karen. Very cool purple potatoes.

    Did you ever post your recipe for the chili sauce that you eat with potato pancakes?

    Found the sweet Thai chili sauce, but I don’t think this is the one you meant.

    Many thanks (and I completely understand if this is a secret recipe that you don’t wish to share. No, that’s an absolute lie. I don’t understand and why would you do that to us?????)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lauren – It’s absolutely NOT a secret recipe! I was thinking of doing some this year because I only have 2 jars left but I’m in SUCH a mess and so busy that I’m worried I’m not going to get it made!!! If I don’t get it made, then I promise in the next week or two I’ll just post the recipe with a jar of my 2 year old completed sauce, LOL. ~ karen!

      • Lauren from Winnipeg says:

        Ok. That absolutely works for me (and I’m sure all of your other avid readers). Breathe. I don’t want to add to your stress level. I can’t believe you are able to do half the stuff you accomplish!

        And I knew you wouldn’t hold out on a recipe – :-)

        Don’t you want to figuratively slap those people who say its “their” recipe and they would rather not share it? Especially when “their” recipe came from a cookbook or magazine. Humph!

  16. Trish R says:

    So, with all of those potatoes, dare I ask how many you planted to start with? Did you do from seed or just do cut potatoes to start with? Would love to know how much you put in vs. how much you got out. Definitely inspired me to grow potatoes next year, and more then one variety. Plus, you’ve converted me from the Yukon to the Kennebac. Thanks!

  17. Barbie says:

    …..However the stinking vole ate ALL of our potatoes this year….almost ALL of them! We had a HUGE crop too! :(((((

    • Karen says:

      Voles are the absolute worst! They eat like they’re the size of an elephant and can get through a hole the size of a grasshopper. ~ karen!

      • Barbie says:

        Karen, take a look at the beautiful beets that we “would have had” a whole LOAD of if that stupid varmint would not have eaten then all! This was the first pick to simply “thin out” to make room for the others ….little did I know it would be all we would get. I credit “YOU” for turning me on to the amazing Chioggia beet. Also I think you suggested the “Bulls Blood” too.

  18. JebberJay says:

    mm …mmmMMM …mmmMMMMM …. MMMMMMM!!!

  19. Cheryl says:

    What a beautiful harvest!!! I grew potatoes for the first time this summer. I planted them in a large plastic trash can with lots of drainage holes. I planted 6 potato plants and as the plants grew, I just kept adding more and more dirt up the growing stem, leaving the tops to keep growing. Then! The tops turned brown, we dumped the contents of the can on a tarp and voila!!!! 10 potatoes. The largest was the size of a lime. We took them inside, washed them off, and cooked them immediately and ate them all. Right then. All 10 of them. I have to learn a different growing method.

    • theresa says:

      I think that your method may have smothered them. I grow them in a huge flower pot with excellent drainage but it is only about 15 inches deep. This year painting it black to see if that helps with heat retention (living in a hallow in Seattle means a cool yard all year). I try to leave at least three inches of leaf and stem when putting fresh soil on top as they grow. Once they are done I dump them in the wheel barrow to sort and I take every last one of them–tiny ones are great to boil up with Ikea meatballs.

      When I grew them in the ground, I used a tube made of chicken wire to hold the straw and soil as they grew. when they were done I just removed the tower and sorted thru for the potatoes.

      I plant Purple Vikings (so creamy) that I get at the farmers market but the russet, reds and yukons are just what I pick up at the market and didn’t eat before they started sprouting.

      Past two winters have put a potato that sprouted around Christmas into a regular house plant pot at the sunniest window and watched it happily grow until I could get it outside in April.

  20. Shauna says:

    I’m thinking one could use a wine fridge to store their potatoes if the house is (like mine) always hot right now. Especially if one weren’t a wine drinker. I am not that one, but just sayin’.

  21. Katrina says:

    I had no idea that temperature made a difference! No wonder my potatoes go bad so quickly, I’ll keep them stored in the fridge from now on. Thanks for the info!

    • Karen says:

      Katrina – NO, no! Not the fridge. The fridge will be slightly too cold and turn the potatoes starch to sugar. Just keep them in whatever area of your house is the coolest. ~ karen!

  22. toekneetoni says:

    very impressive hoard! Enjoy!

  23. Dawna Jones says:

    The purple ones are so pretty!

  24. Kelly says:

    last night we were mourning the loss of all our fingerlings this year. Every year we’ve planted them, kept some aside as seed potatoes in a brown paper bag in the wine cellar and every year we’ve had a fresh generation of fingerling potatoes. But this year, nothing came up. I am seriously envious of your 52 pound crop and wondering if you have any idea why we might be suddenly potatoe-less?

    • gloria says:

      Kelly, tell me about keeping some aside for seed. I’m a first time spud grower. Mine are already harvested (reds) and are sitting in a box in the mud room. I didn’t plant many so I really don’t want to give up even one for seed, but just might if I can summon up the will power not to eat them all. But need to know how. Thanks.

      • Kelly says:

        My husband would keep some of our potatoes aside and put them in a nice dry paper bag and put them in a dark cool place that doesn’t have high humidity. Wine cellar or root cellar is perfect. Then once every week or two, go down and pull off any little eyes or sprouts that are growing. Another way, but i’ve never tried it, is to store the seed potatoes in sand. you still have to pull any growing bits off between fall and planting.

  25. Leona says:

    Thanks for the tips on humidity and temperature together. Mine did not store well last year. Now I know why!

    (Rubs hands together maniacally thinking of her soon-to-be potato hoard!

  26. Sally A says:

    Are those varieties noticeably different in texture and/or flavor? How do you like to use them? Is one kind better for chips, one for mashed, etc.?

    • Karen says:

      Sally A – Kennebecs are the chef’s choice for french fries. The blues are just for fun. The red french fingerlings are probably the best tasting and have the nicest texture. They’re definitely the best for roasting in olive oil with salt, pepper and herb d’provence. ~ karen!

  27. Ruth says:

    Wow! Just…. wow. I just can’t seem to get potatoes to grow beyond a a week or two. If excessive water from the sky doesn’t kill it, the inevitable drought (both from rain and tap water) does it in.

    Ah well… I’ll look at yours and dream while I place potatoes on my grocery list.

  28. Jamieson says:

    I looked at that blanket picture in horror! If I tried to leave outside 52 pounds of potatoes in my yard for 2 weeks, every last one of them would disappear before the door had even closed behind me. On a positive note, the neighbourhood gangs of raccoons would be so sated and pleased by my offering they would likely anoint me their new King and this could bring its own rewards: perhaps a potato festival in my name or raccoon plays performed on demand for my amusement. Seriously, that would be a lot of potatoes for the raccoons to enjoy and I cannot imagine another way around it than to accept my raccoon king fate. Thanks for the tip!

  29. Samantha says:

    You are the potato guru…I have learned so much and will be coming to the Kennebec side in spring…where do you buy your spuds to start the whole deal?

  30. Ann says:

    I love the colors of potatoes just freshly dug. The reds and purples specifically. Even an hour out of the ground dulls that color a bit but even that short time is worth seeing that amazing color.

    I am jealous. Potatoes are harder to grow down here in the south. But we do very very well with sweet potatoes. Unless the deer eat the foliage down to the ground. Twice. Then you get nothing. Darned nuisances. Big big forest rats, if you ask me.

    • Karen says:

      I had moles or rabbits or something eat my leaves down to the ground for the first half of the summer. I thought they just weren’t growing, LOL. I ended up putting a floating row cover over the patch and that did the trick. ~ karen!

  31. Moe says:

    Such a craving for roast garlic smashed taters now…. for breakfast.

  32. The Russian Blues look like fashion divas! Do they taste differently too?

  33. Melissa says:

    Growing potatoes, that’s impressive enough. But you’ve got the dirt (no pun intended) on how to store and eat them over the course of the year. I did not know you had to “season” them, so to speak, before storing them in a cool place. Good info.

    And nice work! Seriously, 52 lbs of potatoes… that’s over a pound of potatoes per week for the next 7 months. And won’t you be a proud mama for any holiday meals where you can say, “these are *my* potatoes we’re eating.”

  34. Laura Bee` says:

    Did you enter them in your local fall fair? Some of those Russians are quite interesting. The odd shaped veggies are always fun. Alfred would have won a ribbon for sure.

  35. Mary Kay says:

    Karen – do those rules of storage apply to store bought potatoes? We have not ventured down this garden delight yet – I hope to next year so we are stuck with store bought potatoes. ( I know the shame of it all *sniff*)

    • Karen says:

      Mary Kay – Your grocery store potatoes will have been cured, but yes, the temperature applies. If you keep them in your coolest room (but not freezing) they’ll last longer. ~ karen!

  36. nice score.

    we didn’t even plant potatoes but that was ok. we must have missed some in the great dig out last year and we had three plants grow out of nowhere. dug some up and had ’em mashed the other night.

    we didn’t have to berate them…..’you call yourself a potato?’……..we ate them right away instead.

    that’ll show them.

  37. Ev says:

    This was the first year we got a nice bunch of potatoes. We gave some to my most wonderful 91 year old mother-in-law (6 whole potatoes)! We gave a very small bag (maybe 12 whole potatoes) to our son. I don’t think anyone else will be bestowed! My husband was so proud of them, I was surprised he shared at all! We didn’t weigh them, but from your pic, I’d guess we got 35-40 pounds. Now it’s time for you to spew fantastical (?) recipes!

  38. Linda Jones says:

    Have you ever tried Yukon Gold potatoes? I’ve never been able to eat white potatoes after going to Yukons. I have successfully grown them for 3 years, too.

  39. Phyllis Kraemer says:

    Keep Running!

  40. Feral Turtle says:

    Guess I will be coming for supper Karen. What time do we eat? I am part Irish so make lots!

  41. Tigersmom says:

    Those Russian Blues are rather naughty. Or maybe it’s their fluffer, I mean, handler.

    Somebody owes that cat an apology.

  42. JBB says:

    I highly recommend that you commune with your potatoes for a while, until one stands out as the ideal, resonating with your soul.

    You will have found your Bonsai Potato.

    I highly recommend you work with your Bonsai Potato. Your lack of patience will be rewarded. As their tagline says: Zen – without the wait!

  43. mimiindublin says:

    52 lbs of potatoes…1lb per week.
    Just trying to figure out (early morning foggy brain) is that enough for 1 person? Not an Irish person – we eat 52 lbs a day! but an average person?

  44. Susan Dulley says:

    I do not think I would share either…That is a lot of work and to truly enjoy the experience, I think that you need to savor every bite. Only the person doing the work, growing the vegetables, truly understands and appreciates the wonderfully delicious end result. Ok, maybe that is a little selfish, but, when I think of all the people who have made comments like, “Oh, you actually have a garden!” Yes, I do and I love it. Their comment again, Oh, that is so much work, I just go to the grocery store.” Well, then, go to the grocery store, but, I will be eating potatoes that taste like potatoes should and not like potatoes that have been, most likely, improperly grown, improperly cured and improperly stored. I will be enjoying each and every bite and remembering, with pleasure, just how much fun I had growing them. Honestly, it never fails, all summer long, I get comments like that, but, come harvest time…guess who is knocking at my kitchen door?????

    • gloria says:

      Susan, isn’t there a children’s fable about this. Something to do with a chicken, a fox, a pig, I can’t remember. But no one wanted to help the chicken, Henny Penny maybe, until it was time to eat the yummy results. Sounds kind of similar.

      • Larraine says:

        I think you want The Little Red Hen, which many of us older readers might have grown up with as a Little Golden Book. You can find this fable (it has a moral) on several web sites, but I suggest you try something for children, such as because you can get into a some ugly political satires on the idea of getting something without working for it!

        • gloria says:

          Link didn’t work, Larraine. But if the story I’m thinking of is The Little Red Hen, then who is Henny Penny? Was she the one that kept running around saying, “the sky is falling, the sky is falling?” Sorry, Karen, for hijacking your potato thread.

        • Karen says:

          Hijack away. I’m pretty busy today so I’m actually happy you’re keeping yourselves amused, LOL. ~ karen

        • Larraine says:

          Yup — Henny Penny’s sky was falling, possibly because she was so busy preparing for winter under the stern eye of the Little Red Hen that she didn’t notice the Blue Bird of Happiness flying overhead until a plop got her attention… or have I mixed something here? Well, the surest way is just to search “LIttle Red Hen.” “Henny Penny” gets you to Ducky Lucky and Chicken Little.

        • Ellen says:

          My mother read “The Little Red Hen” to me over and over when I was a little girl. And I got the message: “‘Then I will,’ said the Little Red Hen. And she did.”

  45. Rhonda Smartypants says:

    You’re my kind of girl, Karen. Share my opinions, share my bed, but I’m keeping all my potatoes to myself. You know this means I’m coming over for some of those Russian blues. By the way, is that a Peony I see peeking her lovely, full bloomed face around the burlap in one of your pictures? Those Peonies are sure hams when it comes to pictures. Lucky you, Karen. Our Peony blooming season is in May for all of about a week then it gets too wet or too hot…maybe I ought to move where you live. Has that neighbor of your’s that you steal things from moved yet? I’ll earn my keep by keeping the coop clean — A Coop Cleaner, that’s what you need. Right? Please say yes. You could feed me potatoes and pay me in Peony blooms. Give it a thought while I rustle up some sour cream, chives, and a pound or two of butter (unsalted, of course). See ya’ Saturday.

    • Lauren from Winnipeg says:

      Hi, Rhonda. I think the flower you see is a Hydrangea. Peonies are a spring flower, at least here in The Great White North.

      – Lauren

  46. Kat says:

    I have been looking for a good way to freeze mashed potatoes straight from the garden and have not found one so I tried a few different things and here is my final way to do it. Dig them up bring them in and wash them skins on, boil them, then when tender mash them with whatever, I used a fork (lots of work) then squirt a half of a lemon on the mashed spuds and stir it up, I added some seasoning salt and pepper. Let them cool down and then freeze them. I am single so I froze them in individual baggies and then all I have to do is throw them in the microwave (take them out of baggies and put in a bowl) and add butter a little cream and stir them up and yummy straight from the garden taste and they don’t go mushy or turn black!

  47. carey says:

    Wow, that’s an impressive harvest! I recently heard a great tip on preventing potatoes from growing eyes. Store them in the same storage container with apples! It really works!

  48. LuAnn Agustin says:

    Absolutely laughed out loud at the random kitty picture!

  49. Denise Leavens says:

    Ooo, you slipped a frightening picture of a hat-wearing-antler-sporting-cat in there among the potatoes!

    Which of these potato varieties make the best baked potato would you say? (I have a very limited diet and potatoes are a mainstay.)

    • Karen says:

      Denise – The best all around potato is the Kennebec. Bake, fry, mash. It’ll do it all. But the red potatoes make the best crispy skinned potatoes. ~ karen!

      • Denise Leavens says:

        Crispy skin, yes! Red it is, then. Living in the Pacific Northwest my go to potato has been Yukon gold and the ubiquitous Idaho Russet. Thanks, Karen!

  50. Marti says:

    Potatoes are love, Karen. But only if you share them. (That’s what I learned on my summer vacation… seriously.) Are you going to eat all those yourself or give some to Mom/sisters?

    • Karen says:

      I do NOT share my potatoes. What a thought. ~ karen O.k. fine. I gave my mom a couple. And people are free to eat them when they come here. But other than that, no.

      • Lori says:

        Great bunch of potatoes there Karen!! .??? D the purple one taste different??? I am tring to grow sweet potatoe,cross my fingers they grow. Thanks for the garden tip on leaving them out and how to store them! Oh and here I thought that when you had a green potato, it meant that they were not ready to be pulled up. As I have bought potatoes that were greenish. Now I know not to!! thanks

        • Marti says:

          The greenish part is poisonous, if you get enough of it or feed it to a small child. Can make you sick. Don’t eat that part, Lori… peel it off.

      • Barbie says:

        HAHAHAHA! I could not agree with you more on this one Karen! Love me some potatoes! Not enough to share….especially when you want them to last you all winter long….people can have some of my tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, ect….not my potatoes! Or peppers….or Eggplant…or butternut squash! etc.

      • Carol in Wisconsin says:

        Karen, thanks for not apologizing for not sharing. The 12 year old daughter of a neighbor (2 adults, 5 kids, a dog and a cat in a tiny Cape Cod on an equally tiny corner lot) came over and said to me, ‘My mom wants to know if we can pick your pears, because she said one person can’t eat that many pears.’ I politely told her I was giving most of them to MY family, then went inside and called the fencing company to come out and give me an estimate to build a fence between me and them.
        I don’t mind sharing, but only when it’s my idea. The crop from each of the last two years was ONE pear, due to the newly planted tree (2011) and some horrible red squirrels (2012), and I just want to enjoy my bounty for one year.
        Glad they weren’t around when I was digging my Yukon Golds and Purple Vikings….. Mighta been feud time!

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