7 Steps to Growing Outstanding Potatoes!
Potatoes are delicious baked, mashed, fried, roasted, and steamed, whatever way you like. They are versatile in a ton of dishes and can be seasoned a million different ways as well. They are also packed with nutrition. Potatoes are high in vitamin C and potassium and they provide a good amount of fiber and iron. I like potatoes and have a very hard time finding potatoes I can eat.
I have multiple chemical sensitivities and have moderate to severe reactions to many chemicals that are added to food. Potatoes are one of the most treated foods in our food supply. I react severely to formaldehyde and guess what growers douse store bought potatoes in? You guessed it, formaldehyde. Why would growers do this? Formaldehyde is used in the treatment and prevention of potato scab which is a fungus that attacks potatoes. Potatoes grown in a mono-crop setting are particularly vulnerable to scab.
We Americans love our perfect looking produce and if growers didn’t spray chemicals on our potatoes, they wouldn’t look as great in the stores when we buy them. Chemicals are used on the tubers before they are planted, other chemicals are sprayed on the sprouts, and even more chemicals are used to kill the potato vines prior to harvesting them. Then, you guessed it, potatoes are sprayed with more chemicals after harvest so they won’t sprout and will be able to travel long distances to our groceries for us to buy them, and so we can store them at home. Many of the shameful acts committed against our food supply are due to our demands for perfect looking food.
In America, tons and tons of fresh produce is thrown away before it is even prepared for market. Why? Because it’s not cute enough for someone to buy it. We want perfectly shaped, colored, and sized foods. Once it gets to the market, more of it is thrown away and then finally, at home we throw even more of it away. Eventually, we are throwing away over 40% of all food produced. All of the food we are throwing away could feed all the hungry people. Click here to learn more about food waste in the U.S.
After washed and peeled, potatoes still contain a lot of chemical residue. Click here to read all about it.
According to OnlyOrganic.org, potatoes are treated with the following:
— Six known or probable carcinogens
— 12 suspected hormone disruptors
— Seven neurotoxins
— Six developmental or reproductive toxins
— Nine honeybee toxins
Click here to see a list of what chemicals they are.
After doing some research on why potatoes were causing me severe violent reactions, I realized even if the potatoes weren’t making me sick, I wouldn’t want to be eating them anyway, and I sure as the world don’t want my babies eating them. I am responsible for growing healthy kids. It’s my job to provide them with safe food. I feel that God has shown me the knowledge and now I am required to use it to better the lives of the people I love.
My concern with the food supply is a big reason we started such a big garden at Little Sprouts. Organic potatoes are very hard to come by where in live in Oklahoma. I can find them at my local store occasionally, but other than that, I just don’t eat potatoes or serve them to my kids unless we grow them ourselves.
Growing potatoes is fun! You get to take big seed potatoes and cut them in chunks and plant them. They are easy for the kids to handle and bury in the soft earth. There is just one problem…we weren’t having any success.
Year 1 we planted two pounds of seeds and got three tiny marbles… I’m not kidding, three marbles. They couldn’t even have been considered steelies, just regular marbles.
Year 2 we planted four pounds and got four pounds… I’m thinking to myself we would be better off eating our seeds…
Year 3 we planted four pounds and got, eight pounds. Wow, doubling our production is quite a bit more successful than what we’ve experienced, but still, I am losing money on this venture. We thought year three was our year, it finally looked like something was happening.
Each year we bought organic seed potatoes for obvious reasons. Each year we thought it would be our year. Each year our hopes were high and our returns low. So what were we doing wrong?
Let’s talk about Year 4. We planted eight pounds of seed and harvested 58 pounds of marvelous potatoes! Finally, success! The kinds of potatoes we grew included fingerlings, Yukon golds (my favorite) and the red potatoes.
What did we do differently?
- I did some research into what types of potatoes grow best in our area. Those red waxy potatoes that most people eat as new potatoes are definitely the best growers here. I don’t really like them as well as I like some others, but I bought some for the kids to plant this year and they way out performed all the other potatoes. So if I want to grow a lot of potatoes in Oklahoma, I’m going to have to grow red potatoes.
- We planted earlier. I had always heard everyone saying plant your potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day and harvest before the 4th of July. This year I had the kids plant the potatoes as soon as they arrived and were cut. We ordered our potatoes from Wood Prairie Farms. Click here to see their website.
- Cut the potatoes. I had seen people talk about cutting the potatoes, but I was told you can cut them if you want or not cut them if you don’t want. I never cut ours because I didn’t want to wait longer to plant them. I don’t like waiting. Ooops, did I let out a secret about myself? Anyway, back to cutting potatoes. There is an energy line that runs down the center of each potato to all of the eyes. That line puts out the energy to grow potatoes. If you cut the line into four pieces, you get four times the energy for growth. It makes perfect sense!
- We had a cooler beginning of spring. My friend Terri said potatoes don’t form or grow tubers after soil temps reach 75 degrees. I checked to see what Mother Earth News had to say about it and they say maximum tuber formation occurs with soil temps are between 60 and 70 degrees, so our weather this year had a lot to do with our success. Click here to read their potato growing tips. Thanks Terri for that really helpful tidbit!
- Usually in Oklahoma it goes from freezing to 90 degrees in a matter of a week or two in spring. We don’t usually enjoy any spring like temperatures, but this year, we had two whole months of cooler days that weren’t frigidly cold. Our cool season crops enjoyed it immensely!
Here’s how we grew our amazing potatoes:
- Ordered our organic seed potatoes.
- As soon as they arrived, I cut them into quarters and laid them out to dry.
- After about three days, we dug 6 inch trenches in our potato beds and the kids dropped potatoes in. I tried to even them out to about one every four inches, but when you’re working with a group of young kids, nothing is perfectly symmetrical.
- The kids covered the potatoes with soil.
- We would have watered, but we were getting rain every week, so we let God do the watering for our whole potato season. After about three weeks, the greens popped up through the ground and we watched our potatoes grow. We had lots of hope.
- After the potatoes flowered, we waited until the vines started to turn yellow and we dug one bed, and then a few weeks later dug the other two.
Video by Ever Change Productions, check them out!
- We made sure not to get the potatoes wet. We just laid them out in a single layer (we used plastic tote lids because that’s what I could find). We covered them with a black sheet to make sure no light gets to them but air does. We ate a few, but are letting the rest cure. After about two weeks in a cool dry place, we will store them for eating later. They should be stored at about 40 degrees. The closest place I have to that is the refrigerator, so I will be storing ours in the fridge.
I urge you to try growing your own potatoes. They taste amazing and you KNOW what is on them. You can also find different varieties than are available in our grocery stores, so it’s fun to explore the world of potato shapes, colors, and flavors. The kids learn so much from growing their own food. Potatoes are no exception. Also, remember, if you have a hard time with something the first time, don’t give up, sometimes the third time is the charm…or the fourth!