A Family Builds a Homestead in the Rain

Planting Purple Potatoes

Every Saturday during the summer, since we did not grow potatoes for the first time in years, we bought spuds from a fellow at the farmer’s market who we affectionately referred to as Santa Claus Guy. He sold organic Yukon Golds, Russets and a lovely purple variety.

Since colorful potatoes contain the most nutrients, we ate a lot of periwinkle mash. When his supply dwindled at the end of the season, we bought out his stand.

One bag sat hidden in the pantry, forgotten for several weeks until the spuds shriveled and began to sprout. Several months later, the paper bag left undisturbed and consciously stepped-over, purple tentacles began to emerge.

Since we’re currently mid-move, I won’t be able to plant a full crop of early potatoes, but this bag-full will be just about the right amount for a bin or garbage can that we can haul up with us. If for no other reason, I’d like to preserve the variety for a proper planting later.

The first time we planted a large crop of potatoes, my husband was dubious about whether the effort was worthwhile. For a food that’s cheap and we eat a ton of, wouldn’t it be better to just buy them and dedicate the garden space– and time and energy– to a more delectable vegetable?

After our harvest, he dramatically changed his tune. The waxy yellow tubers we pulled from the earth tasted buttery and delicious, unlike anything we’d ever bought. Since then potatoes are one of our primary garden plants. When I was enormously pregnant and the summer was scorching, our garden waned to a few vegetables, yet I went out daily to water and hill up my precious potatoes.

We grow them in circles of wire lined with newspaper. I place the seed potato on the ground, cover it with straw and soil, and position the fencing wire around it. As the leaves rise up through the dirt, I add layers of mulch and soil to cover most of them until the wire “bin” is mostly full and the greens begin to die back. Then I pull the wire off, knock down the tower of earth, and pull out the potatoes.

I’ll do the same basic thing in a trash can with these purple sprouters and the bin will be our mobile start to a garden for the new property. It will be nice to know that the garden is already underway before we arrive permanently!

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11 Comments

  1. January 18, 2015    

    wow, I would love to have some of those to plant!

    • January 18, 2015    

      They’re just beautiful, aren’t they? Try your local farmer’s market for unusual varieties– the more colorful, the more nutritious. Just be sure they’re organic.

  2. kamayflemens kamayflemens
    January 18, 2015    

    I bet they make the prettiest plant!
    We are growing red potatoes in a 5 gallon bucket in our garage. So far so good. We have never had anything but ‘volunteer’ potatoes before. However, they started late in the season and they did not have enough time to grow big before the cold hit. I’m very excited to see if this works.

    • January 18, 2015    

      I love the bucket idea. Potatoes are so easy, it’s awesome. I know you can grow them in straw in a plastic garbage bag, or in tires, just adding more tires as you hill up the soil. Not quite as attractive, perhaps. 🙂

      • kamayflemens kamayflemens
        January 19, 2015    

        We might try something like that this summer. 🙂

  3. January 19, 2015    

    While the potatoes are beautiful, I am constantly amazed at your photography. Love how you’ve captured this.

    • January 19, 2015    

      Thank you SO much Julia! That means a lot.

  4. January 20, 2015    

    Those spuds are stunning. I want to try some purple spuds this coming season however they are super hard to find.

    • January 20, 2015    

      Thank you! I would try ordering online if you can’t find them at your local (or the best nearby) farmer’s market. Some feed stores and nurseries carry seed potatoes, too. Good luck!

  5. January 21, 2015    

    Beautiful, hope to start potatoes this year. This is a new one for me!

    • January 21, 2015    

      You should! Nothing is as fun to harvest, in my opinion. Like digging for treasure! Great for kids, too! 🙂

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  1. Homegrown Potatoes: A Worthy Vegetable | Little Fall Creek on June 12, 2015 at 11:14 am

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I'm Kelly. Writer, crafter, forager, country winemaker, cook. Mama of an awesome toddler and married to my best friend. We recently returned to the Pacific Northwest, where we're setting out to grow, make, and learn as much as we can as the future unfolds.

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