Saturday, May 15, 2010

Disappointed in Red LaSoda

I had already decided I would not grow Red LaSoda potatoes again. Compared to the other two potato varieties I tried this year, Purple Viking and Rio Grande Russet, RLS grew sickly looking plants, half of which died shortly after they started to grow. The late March freeze may have had something to do with that, but PV and RGR recovered from that just fine, turning their 4'x8' potato patches into lush jungles, while RLS just had a few scraggly plants sticking out here and there with a lot of bare spots.

Now my potatoes are starting to die as the weather turns hot. This is only the second time I've grown potatoes, and the first time was years ago, so I'm still learning here, but I've been told that to harvest fully mature potatoes you wait until the tops are completely dead.

However, I decided that since I wasn't going to save this variety to grow next year anyway, I would sacrifice the Red LaSodas to become the delicacy known as "new potatoes".

Now, I don't know about your mom, but my mom always called any small, waxy potato, especially the red ones, "new potatoes". It was only later I found out that true new potatoes are actually the immature form of any sort of potato. You dig them up before the plant has died to get delicious little baby potatoes. So I probably have never actually had new potatoes. A new first for me from the garden this year, along with garlic scapes!

Of course, right when I decided I would dig up my patch of Red LaSodas, it rained. A lot. I'm not complaining since we really needed it, but it's funny how this always seems to happen at an inconvenient time. At least my rain barrel is full again.

Today it's cleared up, so I braved the steamy atmosphere created by the sun beating down on the wet earth, and started digging.

I started at the really sparse side and dug towards the not quite as sparse side, but it soon became clear I wasn't going to get much. Also, I've never seen so may grubs! What's with all the grubs? Was it all the compost I added? I hope they aren't doing damage. When I stopped to get my digging fork, a mockingbird swooped down and snatched one. I hope now that I'm done they're out there getting the rest.

And here's my harvest! I bought three pounds of each variety and they each got a 4'x8' patch to grow in (cut the seed potatoes into 32 pieces so each got one square foot of space). Washed the potatoes off and stuck them on the scale, and you know what it read? 2.95 lbs. So basically I would have been better off eating the seed potatoes directly!

At least they're pretty. I plan to make them into Creamed New Potatoes and Peas with all these peas I've been getting as well. Apparently this is some sort of popular, classic dish, but probably more for Yankees, because I've never had it. This is not really potato OR pea growing country. I cheat by planting them super early, in January or February, and then they're harvested and dead by May. In fact, my peas are almost kaput. The vines are almost completely brown now, but I've still got 2-3 pounds of peas in the fridge. I'm going to have to plant a lot more next season so I'll have extra to freeze.

I've got higher hopes for my other potatoes. In the foreground here are the Rio Grande Russets, and behind them are the Purple Vikings. A weird thing is that they seem to die from the middle of the patch out to the edges. I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but there's a lot more going on, at least above ground, than there was with the Red LaSodas. I hope that translates to more below ground as well. These I will let completely die before harvesting for maximum potato maturity. Supposedly they keep better that way, but it also allows them to get as big as possible, because these plants are transferring the life out of the leaves and into the tubers. That process isn't completely done until the plants are completely dead.
I think I'll put sweet potatoes in where the red potatoes came out. I hope their namesake roots make better use of all that compost and sand I dug into the bed than the red potatoes did.

No comments:

Post a Comment