Friday, November 21, 2008

Happy accidents at the potato patch

I can't take any credit for the excellent confusion I have caused in my potato patch, but I am delighted at the prospect of how the next month or two of spud harvesting might pan out. It all began the other day with the sudden decline of just one plant in the potato patch. It had been obviously damaged by something, as it had almost snapped off where it poked out of 'The Hill' and was rapidly going yellow and shrivelling up. A recent windy day is the likely culprit, but the constant backyard midnight cat fights cannot be entirely ruled out. There was no alternative – an early one-plant harvest was called for.

And this is some of what came out of the hill. King Edward potatoes, now washed and in the pink of good health, even if a few of them are still just babies. Total weight of the premature harvest was about 900g, not too bad for a lot of tiddlers plus a few teens and not many adults.

I love that pink skin of the King Edwards. Soon after pulling them out of the hill I washed a couple, boiled one and par-boiled the other then pan-fried it. Yummy all round, both ways!

Here's The Hill where the King Edward clan lived. It's roughly a 50:50 blend of home-made compost and sugar cane mulch, and as I bandicooted around inside the hill looking for Kings in Hiding the soil felt cool, soft and just lightly moist. Lovely earth.

The other potato plants are either still flowering, or have just finished flowering, so from everything I've read they're still a long way from being ready to harvest. I had read that you can start bandicooting around for baby spuds after the plants stop flowering, but if you want a maximum-size, full-flavoured crop, wait until the plants start to fade away. So my premature crop of King Edwards confirms all that, as most of them were still babies. Here's one of the other plants, and it's still green and lovely and lush.

On the other side of the patch some potato plants are still flowering, so they won't be feeding me for a couple of months, I expect. The fact that some are flowering and some finished a week or three back makes me suspect that they are different varieties. At the end of the blog I'll explain how I managed to not have a clue what variety is growing where...

While I was taking a snap this afternoon of the flowers and the hill, a ladybird wandered into the frame.

And while it's not the clearest action shot you'll ever see, the ladybird then decided I was mere garden paparazzi and didn't want to be on the cover of Ladybirds 4 Lads.

The wonderful stuff-up of this potato patch is all a result of my impatience and impetuosity. Simply, I'm not sure what potatoes I'll get until I pull them out of the hill. I was expecting a Kennebec today, and I got a King Edward!

Let me explain. I wanted to grow Kennebec potatoes, because I have very fond memories (from living in Tassie in the late 1970s) of Kennebecs baked in their jackets at a Steakhouse in Ulverstone, run by a mate of mine. When I ordered my spuds earlier this year I ordered far too many, going for Kennebecs, King Edwards and Dutch Creams. Just one bag of seed potatoes would have been enough. I ended up with three bags and realised my mistake when I read up on potato growing after ordering the spuds. Oh dear!

Then the Kennebecs wouldn't sprout for me in my little 'chitting' spot. The King Edwards and Dutch Creams did sprout fairly readily, so I planted them. Very, very belatedly, the Kennebecs did sprout a few weeks later, and as none of the other spuds already planted had yet appeared above soil level, I thought "what the hell, Kennebecs in too". So I dug around a bit, yanked out a couple of the others to make way for some Kennebecs, and planted some of the sprouted Kennebecs.

What I've ended up with is a mixture of all three types in a tiny little potato patch that's just 1.5m x 1.5m. I'm not sure which plant is which. I've downloaded some excellent potato mug shots from my supplier, Tasmanian Gourmet Potatoes – – so I'll find out what I'm having for dinner that night when they finally come out of the Hill, and no earlier. Kind of makes it more fun, actually, but that doesn't make hopeless confusion a great plan or anything...


LC said...

The King Edwards look fantastic! I am trying to restrain myself from bandicooting too is hard to resist though.

Australian Gardening said...

Congrats on the potato harvest!
You have taken some fantastic photo's as well, especially the ladybug flying away.
I wish I could get potato's to grow in my climate, seems they don't like hot humid conditions.