I went the majority of this summer without owning a scale to weigh myself. The reason being, my scale broke and I was too lazy to buy a new one. That's why I didn't know if I weighed enough to give blood, which resulted in an episode where I ended up covered in ice packs and almost pooping my pants.
I wasn't terribly worried about not owning a scale because a) I exercise a LOT in the summer b) If my jeans don't fit I know I need to watch my potato chip intake and c) I had bigger, more important things on my mind like which flavour of ice cream I should make next in my brand new ice cream maker.
But when potato harvesting season came around I had to get a scale because I needed to weigh my potatoes. So I did my requisite, I prefer to overthink things, research, and ordered the least expensive, highest rated digital scale off of Amazon and hopped on it with my massive potato harvest. For the second time this summer I nearly shit my pants.
I grew almost 100 pounds of potatoes this summer. And 6 pounds of back and boob fat. This at a time of year when I normally lose weight. I blame the pizza oven. And the world's greatest ice cream maker. Don't ever, ever, ever buy an ice cream maker with a built in compressor. It makes making ice cream tooooo easy. Don't do it, it's a bad f*cking idea from every direction. Mostly from behind.
So these potatoes I grew aren't going to help this situation one bit unless I stuff them into burlap bags and drag them behind me all day long.
Instead I have other plans for them.
Potato Pancakes with Chili Sauce
Potato salad, scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes, and more.
I have somewhat of an unhealthy relationship with potatoes. And more recently Rocky Road ice cream.
Because of my spud love, every year when I plan my garden I give the most amount of space to potatoes.
This year 2, 16' long, 3.5' wide beds were devoted to potatoes, plus another partial bed. They store well, I like to have a variety of ... varieties ... and I never want to run out of them.
This year I grew most of my favourites and a new red variety. Then I weighed them all to see if any of the varieties grew substantially more per plant than any of the others. I wanted to know which potato gave more bang for the back fat.
And I did it all with my spuddy buddy at my side the whole time.
The first bed I dug up housed my Russian Blue potatoes. I've grown a fair amount of purple potatoes but I always come back to the Russian Blue. It's darker purple than any others and not only has purple skin, but is deep, dark purple on the inside. Even better, the purple colour doesn't disappear after cooking like other purple varieties.
Purple potatoes have 4 times as many antioxidants in them as a regular potato. They have a slightly, SLIGHTLY (I felt like I needed to scream that) different flavour than a regular potato. They're just more earthy tasting.
9 plants = 10 lbs of Russian Blue potatoes
The next bed I dug up belonged to the Russet Burbank potatoes.
Russets are the potato you want for baking. They're also great for french fries and mashed potatoes.
Russets keep well and they're kind of the King of the potato world based on their wide variety of uses and availability.
25 plants = 27 lbs of Russet Burbank potatoes
By now I was tired and seriously reconsidering my potato plantings. Onto the Yukon Gold
Yukon Golds are a yellow fleshed multi-use potato with a creamy texture. I lost quite a few this year to rotting in the ground.
9 plants = 6 lbs of Yukon Gold potatoes boooooooooo.
In the same bed were my favourite potato, the Kennebec.
Why would this be my favourite potato? Because it's widely known (among potato geeks) as the world's best french fry potato. They're almost always perfectly oval without weird dings or dents, they grow large, have enough sugars to give a golden brown colour when fried and have a thin skin so you can cook 'em up with the skin on. They taste potatoey, have high yields and hold together even when you overcook them. They're brilliant.
22 plants = 30 lbs of Kennebec potatoes
My final harvest of the day were my red potatoes which are ... and I'm sure you know this already ... the friendliest of all the potato varieties. While russets creep around underground, deep and directionless, red potatoes have a tendency to grow very close to the main plant and close together just waiting to burst their faces through the soil to greet you. They also seem to have stronger roots attaching them to the main plant so if your soil is loose you can pull the entire plant up with all of the potatoes still attached.
I changed things up this year and instead of growing Chieftain Red, I grew Red Pontiac. Red Pontiac's are larger than Chieftains and quite round.
9 plants = 14 lbs of Red Pontiac potatoes
SOME POTATO HINTS AND TIPS
- Red potatoes are the BEST potato you can use for potato salad. They hold their shape when boiled.
- They're also excellent potatoes for getting a crunch on during roasting.
- The best conditions for storing potatoes long term is 40 degrees with 80-90% humidity.
These were also the potatoes that gave me the biggest harvest per plant.
Potato Harvest Size based on variety.
Red Pontiac came in first with around 1.5 pounds of potato per plant.
Kennebec came in second with 1.4 pounds of potato per plant.
Russet potatoes produced just over 1 pound of potatoes per plant.
Russian Blue potatoes got me just over 1 pound per plant.
Yukon Golds yielded a sad 0.7 pounds per plant (due to rotting issues)
Those are really low yields all around so next year I'm going to try planting less seed potatoes, further apart. I know it doesn't make sense. You think you should plant MORE things closer together to get a bigger harvest but with a lot of plants, sweet potatoes included, the greater the distance between plants the larger the harvest will be.
- Kennebec is the choice potato for restaurants who are serious about their french fries.
- Most supermarkets don't carry Kennebec potatoes, but most the seed potatoes are popular and easy to get.
- In-N-Out Burger uses Kennebec potatoes for their french fries.
- Russet potatoes are going to give you baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes and boiled potatoes. Just don't use them for potato salad unless you like a slightly mashed potato salad. (which I actually do)
- Russet Burbank is among the longest storing potatoes with a 6 month shelf life if kept in proper conditions.
After digging up potatoes, you need to cure them. Curing is what'll toughen them up. Like if you had a home schooled kid and then you sent them to a really, really dicey public school and you made them bring avocados and quinoa for lunch for a month? That's kind of toughening up the potatoes get after 2 weeks of curing.
After 2 weeks in darkness at 60 degrees Fahrenheit with as close to 90% humidity as you can get, the potatoes will be cured. Of what I'm not sure.
Cured potatoes will heal over any cuts, have tougher skins and be ready to store for up to 6 months.
If you just plan on dragging your potatoes around behind you in a burlap sack ... curing is not necessary.
Take heart, Karen. Don't kick yourself too much about that low-ish yield. There may be nothing wrong with the numbers you planted! I think it was the weather, and that probably caused us that rot problem too. My yields were well less than usual. I am just a bit north of you, and I hear the same from many other growers here. This has just been such a cool, slow year, nothing is performing normally, and only my cucumbers and leeks seem to be liking it!
Aside from noticing they needed water today (I haven't hooked my system up to a timer because it's so late in the season) my leeks have done great also, lol. Everything else has been lower size/yields than normal. Way lower! ~ karen
Wow you are amazing! I love potatoes. You have lots of great ideas for using them too! I had my best luck with potatoes when I was a kid. I can't seem to grow that much of anything well here in Texas, I keep trying, there is no real fall or spring, just hot or cold. There is a saying here that if you don't like the weather, wait a minute, it will change.
well, guess who is definitely having potatoes with dinner tonite! They are one of the main food groups, along with chocolate & ice cream you know... I made a blueberry pistachio ice cream for the hubster. He loved it!
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But I have to know; are those Dovetail corners on your beds? Joinery in your gardenry ? !
I wouldn't be the least bit surprised
Ha! No, no, no, nooooo. Those are the teeny, tiny dovetails on my antique butter box. :) ~ karen!
I can't remember how to do the math, but one year I weighed my seed potatoes, the weighed the harvest. That way I could see what my increase was to see what was the most productive varieties. Yukon Gold is always a winner for me, but there is one very similar called Yukon Gem that did even better. I love the Kennebec as well.
Off topic of potatoes, but I'd really love to know how you get such great pictures with you in them. Do you have a tripod and a remote trigger? I've tried putting my camera on the timer, but since I don't have something to focus on when I'm not there in front of it, they never turn out.
Hi Melissa! I do use a tripod and a remote. You'll have more success without a trigger if you simply put something in the shot where you know you're going to stand. If you're outside for instance, just stick a pitchfork in the ground and focus on that. Then start the timer, run to the spot where the pitchfork is, pull it out or stand in front of it and BAM. You're in focus. :) ~ karen!
Thanks for the info on what kinds of potatoes are best for whichever potato dish you are making...that is good info to have!
It is indeed! :) ~ karen!
Oh almighty potato guru - to hill or not to hill - that is the question!!!!! Growing up on the farm, and coming from a long-line of farmers, it was my responsibility to hill the potatoes what seemed like every-other-day as Daddy said that's what gave good production. My fella doesn't think it necessary to hill potatoes to enhance production. And there starts the debate in our household! Oh great potato guru please settle this debate once and for all!
I talked about this in the post, lol. Didn't I? I feel like I did but can't be bothered to go back and look. So, I've never found that hilling makes much of a difference. Not for the amount of work it is. I've tried it both ways. This year I did no hilling and got around 100 pounds of potatoes from 2, 3.5" x 16 foot beds plus a tiny bit of another bed. ~ karen!
Yah ya did mention it come to think of it! I'm not very good at paying attention "SQUIRREL" oooo look at the pretty butterfly!!!!!!
Hi, Karen. Didn't read all the potato comments so don't know if this has been addressed. I had a bunch of volunteers come up in the compost pile. Many grew partly above ground, hidden by leaves so I couldn't cover them w/ soil. They now have greenish ends where the sun got to them. Is the whole potato toxic or can I cut off the greenish part and cook the rest. Also, you should see some of these things, many look like big carrots, others like aliens with five arms and four heads.
Hey Gloria! You should just be able to peel that portion off. The green is "toxic" but you have to eat a lot of it to make yourself sick. I mean you don't want to sit down and eat bowlfuls of green potatoes every night but a few with the green cut off are absolutely fine. ~ karen!
I was reading over your potato blog and really enjoyed it. How far did you grow your seeds? I noticed you said your would give them more space next time and was curious
On your orig distance per potato.
Hi Faye. I think it was just a bad potato year. I plant my potatoes slightly more than 1' apart. This post will give you a few more of my potato tips. ~ karen!
Love your article — except you made me hungry. I too have a potato hobby and have been growing my own potatoes every year. My favorites are reds, but I’m too soft to not replant the few russets that grow well. I plant them two feet apart so that they have room for the tops. I also plant them in sandy soil under lots of leaves and let the worms till the soil. The best yield so far was from a volunteer red potato that grew entirely in the leaf mulch 68.5 oz — biggest one being 14.5 oz! I hilled all of them with the loose mulch between the plants. My goal is to develop my own variety.
That's a LARGE potato. Off to start raking leaves now. ;) ~ karen!
Just finished reading most of your other articles. You are awesome! Thought I new gardening! Keep your blogging up!