Greetings and happy “spring on the horizon” to all of you out there. The Seed Savers Exchange seedhouse has been an absolute hub of activity since our last installment. We have been busy putting thousands of seeds into packets, packing thousands of those packets into mailing envelopes, and sending them out to thousands of customers all over! It has taken literally all hands on deck to ensure we get all of those orders out as quickly as possible. Now, with warmer weather on the way, we turn some of our focus to my absolute favorite starch-- potatoes.
How to grow potatoes:
Potatoes are not started via seeds like other vegetables, but rather by planting the “eyes” of the potato. The different varieties have a range of time needed to mature, with our varieties ranging anywhere from 80-120 days. Planting the “eyes” doesn’t require the entire potato. The potato can be cut into quarters so long as there’s not more than 3 “eyes” per section. Setting them out in the sun for a day or two will start the sprouts. One word of note: These sections do not need to be soaked as some suggest. There is no tough shell that needs softening and soaking can also encourage rotting. They can also be started in greenhouses or indoors, and are ready to plant outdoors when the shoots reach half an inch. Planting outdoors is not difficult. Potatoes can also be planted in large pots, so long as the soil is rich in nutrients and is not hard or compact. They can be planted a week or two before the last frost of the season. Potatoes require a lot of sunlight and prefer hotter temperatures. Be sure to cycle your potatoes location each year to allow the soil a recovery period.
Seed potatoes need to be planted around 4 inches deep and roughly a foot apart. The soil can be built up into a mound along the row as well. Routine watering is not necessary as potatoes prefer a well-drained soil and building the mounds helps with this. Regular weeding is needed, as potatoes can be choked out as easily as other fruits and veggies. Potatoes can be harvested “young,”-- after 7-8 weeks in the ground or when mature. Mature potatoes will be evident through yellowing and withering vines.
Meet our varieties:
Seed Savers Exchange offers nine different varieties of potatoes this year, and they all vary in their characteristics. Here’s just a short breakdown of each of the types!
- Carola: This potato, originally from Germany, is a yellow fleshed, low-starch variety. They are oval and medium sized and very popular for soups, boiling and frying.
- Desiree: A red skinned variety brought from Holland. Golden flesh that produces a creamy, delicate potato that is very disease resistant and very reliable.
- French Fingerling: Rose skinned potato with yellow flesh. Can be used for any type of preparation with or without the skin. It is rumored that this variety was brought to the USA in a feed bag for a horse by a smuggler in the 1800’s.
- German Butterball: Rodale’s Organic Gardening crowned this the winner of their “Taste Off.” Russet-style skin with buttery yellow flesh. Good all purpose variety but shines as a mashed variety.
- La Ratte: Recently dubbed “La Reine” which translates to “The Queen”. This is the prized potato amongst high end chefs, particularly the French chefs. It is a fingerling with yellow flesh and waxy texture to compliment the nutty flavor it exudes.
- Nicola: Another German potato, and this one a favorite at Seed Savers Exchange. Yellow skin and yellow flesh and great for boiling and salads.
- Purple Viking: My personal favorite of our offerings. This variety has a very unique taste that accompanies an incredibly smooth texture. White flesh creates beautiful mashed potatoes. Purple skin with reddish pink marbling and large amongst our potatoes. A creamy texture creates a potato that often times doesn’t need butter!
- Rose Finn Apple: Excellent yielding potato with an incredible waxy texture. It is great in every type of preparation and is a good keeper.
- Yukon Gold: This is a delicious potato that tends to be drier than its other yellow brethren. Perfect for baking and mashed potatoes. It's definitely another favorite amongst consumers and chefs alike.
All in all, there are a wide variety of potatoes to choose from here at Heritage Farm. We’re going to be shipping them out starting March 14th, and this year's supply is already over 67% sold! They are going fast, so get on our website, call our great customer service staff or even send in your order via the form in your catalog and get your potato order in!