Potatoes often seem to get overlooked when people plant their vegetable gardens.
A friend of mine commented "Why bother growing potatoes? They are pretty cheap to buy and there can't be that much difference in taste. Really, a potato is just a potato."
There were a few things my friend didn't know:
1. Potatoes have been found to have the most chemical pesticide and herbicide residue on them of any grocery store vegetable or fruit. The pesticides keep the bad bugs, particularly the Colorado potato beetle, aphids and grubs, at bay.
When the spuds are ready to be harvested, they are also doused with herbicides to kill off the greens making the process easier.
Potato farmers have admitted to growing a different crop to feed their own families. That says a lot.
2. Commercially grown potatoes can easily be a year old before they get to the grocery store. That is the reason that, even with organic grocery store potatoes, they tend to last only a few weeks before sprouting. What you are eating is really a less than fresh veggie. When you grow your own and store them correctly, they can last for months and still be fresher than store bought.
3. Fresh homegrown potatoes taste remarkably better than store bought. Even though almost everyone knows how much better a homegrown tomato tastes, most gardeners are surprised at the difference in other vegetables, particularly in potatoes. There is nothing quite like 'grabbling' a new potato, really really new, and enjoying it soon after as part of a meal.
4. Potatoes are inexpensive to grow. In a pinch you can use your leftover ones from the previous year, and you can use store bought potatoes. It is better though to use potatoes grown for the purpose of replanting, known as seed potatoes. These are better at warding off disease than other potatoes. If you can find them at a local farm & garden store you won't have to pay for shipping.
5. Growing taters is easy. Just plop them down on your garden soil about 8-12 inches apart. You can cut the larger ones, but you don't need to. Cover with straw or other natural mulch. Once the stems get to be about 8 inches tall, add more straw. Keep going until you see flowers or until the plants are 3 or so feet high. When the tops die back, harvest.
6. The ROI, or Return on Investment, is pretty darn good. You can easily get 6 pounds of potatoes for every pound you plant. If they get hit with blight, your return will be less. We have heard of some much higher than 6:1 as well.
7. They are easy to store. Potatoes can be held fresh in a cool spot for months, canned, frozen whole or prepared, and dehydrated.
8. Variety. There are thousands of different kinds of potatoes. They range in color from the typical white or Irish potato, to yellow, red and even blue. They come in a range of shapes as well. Some potatoes are better for storing, while others grow faster or taste better. Check out some seed catalogs for more specifics.
9. And finally, potatoes are versatile. We read once that there are more ways to prepare a potato than any other veggie.
Think about it.
They can be baked, boiled, roasted, french fried, mashed, scalloped, stuffed and baked again, made into chips, baked au gratin, cut into curly fries, made into hash browns, pancaked, home fries...
Do you grow your own potatoes?