Kitchen Garden Seeds

Plant Like a Pioneer: Grow Potatoes

There are some nights when only a Potato can help us feel comfortable in our own skins. No Potato can ever taste better than those you've grown yourself, in your own backyard. If you've never grown them before, you'll be surprised how easy it is, and how giddy you'll be come fall when you mine your own motherload of sumptuous spuds. You'll feel like a virtuous, modern-day pioneer of old.

Not all Potatoes are created equally, and we've selected the best for you. All of our Potatoes are high quality, certified seed Potato stock from a registered and inspected, small family-owned farm in Washington State~we've worked with them for years, and their Potatoes are simply the best. We supply mini tubers: small, early-geneartion seed for planting whole. All are vigorous and disease-resistant with increased yield over planting cut Potatoes. Generally, one package of our mini tubers yields up to a bushel of Potatoes~about 50 pounds. We will ship the mini tubers to you at the proper time for spring planting in your horticultural zone. (Sorry: we are not allowed to ship mini tuber Potatoes to Alaska or Hawaii.) With the exception of early-maturing Red Ruby at 65 days, all of our Potatoes mature from 90 to 110 days.

Native to the Andes thousands of years ago, the whole world eats Potatoes today~it's one of the top five global food crops. A starchy tuberous member of the nightshade Solanaceae family, the Potato's botanical name is Solanum tuberosum and some say that there have been as many as 5,000 cultivars grown over time. A raw Potato with skin intact is high in carbohydrates, starch, minerals and contains dietary fiber, phytochemicals, a little protein and Vitamins B, C, E and K, and potassium. Its nutritional value is dependent on the cooking method and whether or not the skin is consumed.

Our Selection of Superior Spuds
Fingerling Potatoes are small, irregularly shaped, oblong nuggets of goodness with a luscious buttery taste and smooth, slightly waxy and firm flesh. These tender, delicious gourmet spuds look like adorable little baby fingers, just waiting to be coddled in a warm butter bath and powdered with a light sprinkling of fine sea salt, crushed black pepper and finely minced Chives or Dill. Circa 1880, French Princess La Ratte Fingerlings have smooth buff-colored skin cloaking creamy golden-yellow flesh with a sweet, nutty flavor and a creamy custard texture. Russian Banana Fingerlings, coming from Europe's northwest Baltic region, have a pale yellow-brown skin and golden ivory-flesh. These two Fingerlings store well for up to a month or so.

Need a good baking Potato for those nights when only a loaded baked Potato can do? Yellow Finn has a unique pear shape, golden flesh, a buttery flavor and a really good, mealy texture. It's also good for roasting, boiling and mashing. Our All-Blue Potato is an excellent long-season spud with inky-blue flesh, terrific flavor and a fine mealy texture.

Europe's favorite Potato is quite likely the Bintje. A beloved 1900 Dutch heirloom, Bintje is a high-yielding, widely adaptable, disease-resistant variety. It has gold skin, a long, oval shape, pale smooth yellow flesh, a waxy texture and a distinctive, toasted almond flavor. A good all-purpose Potato, Bintje makes the best-ever, twice-cooked french fries.

All-purpose Red Ruby is the earliest Potato to mature by as much as six weeks! It's our top pick for boiling and use in summer Potato salads. Red Ruby is brilliantly red-skinned with a waxy texture and the added benefit of being a good storage Potato~not always true for early-maturing varieties.

Magic Molly Purple Fingerling Potatoes are waxy, oblong to blocky 6-inch long tubers with an earthy flavor and low starch. Their vigorous, upright plants are blight-resistant and high yielding. But perhaps most importantly, this Alaskan-bred wonder has purple skin and flesh that retain their striking color even after cooking!

Never grown your own Potatoes? It's really easy.
Growing Potatoes is not hard. Everyone with a bit of space should grow their own! First, start with superior planting stock, like ours, that is vigorous and disease-free. Shipped at the proper time for planting once the threat of spring frost has passed, they come in sets of miniature seed Potatoes. In advance, prepare a Potato patch with deeply dug and moderately fertile, slightly acidic pH soil that has not been amended with either manure or lime for at least one year (a pH of 6.0 to 6.5 will help control common soil fungus that causes potato scab).

Two weeks before the last spring frost date, plant the mini tubers individually in rows that are 30" apart with each about 12" apart in the row, and 2" to 4" deep. As the plants grow (up to 2 feet tall with abundant dark green foliage), pull soil up around the base of the plants (called hilling) to prevent the tubers near the surface from greening. Potatoes grow best in soil that remains cool and evenly moist throughout the summer. Mulching with hay or straw helps to retain moisture and to protect the spud hills from summer's scorching heat.

You can find your reliable Frost-Free Date by using a chart from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Go HERE and select your State from the pull down menu. This will generate a PDF file with a list of NOAA data collection sites in your State. In the left column, choose the location nearest or most similar to where you live. Then read across. Use the middle threshold number (32F) and right next to it, in the Spring column, will be the 50% probability date. This is your all-important average Frost-Free Date.

Time for Harvest!
How do you know when to start harvesting? Potatoes may be dug at anytime after the plant's foliage has died back and before a hard frost. Dig gently to avoid piercing or bruising the tubers. Dig a few out and check out their size once it reaches the specified days to maturity. Continue to dig them as long as possible. Once the Potato patch gets hit by a hard frost, dig them all out. You cannot over winter Potatoes outside~they would freeze and rot.

Harvesting and Storing Potatoes
Though Potatoes are not considered true root crops, they are harvested and stored in much the same way. Once dug out, move them immediately to a cool (50 to 60 degree F), dark (so they don't turn green), well-ventilated place. Lay the Potatoes out on newspaper in a single layer and leave them to cure for two weeks. This will toughen up their thin skins and extend their storage life. After two weeks or so, rub off any large clumps of dirt and cull any tubers that are blemished or were nicked during harvest (these should be eaten straight away and not stored). Potatoes should never be washed before storage.

By weight, Potatoes are about 80% water, so they should be stored under humid conditions. Dark-colored, perforated plastic bags will help retain moisture~just make sure there are lots of holes for good air circulation. Nestle your spuds into ventilated plastic bins, bushel baskets or wax-lined cardboard boxes with perforated sides. Completely cover the Potatoes with newspaper or cardboard to eliminate any light. Even a little light will cause Potatoes to turn green, and render them inedible. The ideal storage temperature for Potatoes is a chilly 40 degrees F, though they will usually keep well for several months at 50 degrees F. If winter-long storage is your goal, it's best to grow varieties that are known to be good keepers, such as Bintje Dutch, Yellow Finn, or Red Ruby Potatoes.

Yum Yum
Need ideas on how to use your Potato stash in some new ways? Try our Cream of Potato-Leek Soup, Crabby Corn Chowder, Union Square Cafe's Creamy Potato-Gruyère Gratin or Hopkins Inn Rosti Potatoes. We also adore Ina Garten's Potato-Fennel Gratin that you can get at www.foodnetwork.com~it is one of the best Potato recipes ever.

Versatile, tasty Fingerlings are great for quick cooking. They may be steamed, lightly boiled or sautéed in butter until fork tender. They are utterly perfect roasted: toss Fingerlings with equally-sized, chunk-cut Asparagus, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Fennel, Red Onions and/or Baby Carrots in a big bowl with a couple rounds of olive oil. Toss onto a big roasting pan (or two), making sure that they are not overcrowded (which will cause them to steam rather than to develop roasting's sweet tastiness and phenomenal texture). Sprinkle liberally with coarse sea salt and fresh black pepper. Roast for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F, flip them all over, roast another 15 minutes and then add the crowning touch: seedless black grapes and Cherry Tomatoes lightly tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for another 10 to 15 minutes~keep an eye on them to prevent even a hint of bitter sugary char on the Red Onions. It is terrific to do trays of roasted veggies like this on a Sunday afternoon: you will have them for a couple nights during the week for a comfy Thanksgiving-like feel whenever you like. After a quick parboil, Fingerlings are also great in a grilled kabob line up, or sliced and added to composed salads since they tend to hold their shape well. Their skins never need be removed for they are rather thin, most delicious and decidedly nutritious. You may even dip little boiled Fingerlings into bubbling cheese fondue (make sure you add a good dash of fresh nutmeg).