When And How to Harvest Potatoes


Well, hello there.  I’m so glad you joined me today.  I could use a hand.  Grab a garden apron, a 5 gallon bucket and a garden fork.  We are gonna dig some taters.

Those lovely little white flowers on the potato plants signal that it is time to dig for “new” potatoes.  Little sweet baby potatoes that are such so much better than anything you will find in the grocery store.

“New” potatoes are a luxury.  If you are gardening for survival, I recommend leaving them in the ground to grow to their full size.  Full size potatoes can be dug anytime after the entire plant dies and looks terribly sad and brown.   Letting them grow means higher yield overall.

However, I can never resist at least digging a dinner’s worth of “new” ones.

So whether you are digging them young or waiting for maturity, here’s how you do it.

Using a garden fork, gently poke a large circle around the potato plant.  With each poke give a little upward lift to the soil.  After the soil is loosened, put the garden fork in a deeply as you can and turn over the entire plant.

If you have a little helper at your side, have him root through the soil for any potatoes left below.  If not, you’ll have to poke about yourself.  It’s funny.  No matter how well I harvest, I always find a renegade potato the following spring as I rotate crops.

There is no rush to harvest them.  Take your time.  Dig some for dinner.  Dig now, dig later.  They are not fussy.  Just be sure to get them all before the ground freezes so hard that you can’t get them out or else you’ll be enjoying a tougher tater after spring thaw.

If you are container gardening, simply shove over your container and lets them spill out.

Another time we will discuss storage issues like canning and root cellaring.

Happy digging!

Rain, Rain Go Away


(Neighbor Nancy splats her soggy self into her chair for a sound pout.)

In the last month we have received 4,867,947 inches of rain. And not a nice, steady rain. Oh no! Cloud bursts full of lightning and hail and winds that blow the chickens across the yard.

Okay, so the chicken part is a little bit funny.

But I have had it! I am sick of being damp or sliding precariously in the mud down the slope of the garden or huddling just inside the door with my oscillating hoe, waiting for the lightning to stop.

While the oats have been pushed over by huge volumes of water, the weeds stand straight and tall, mocking me from their inappropriate homes. I saw a flattened row of corn next a happy, sturdy Japanese knot weed. Bastard.

Sorry, that just slipped out.

My strawberries aren’t a harvest they are puffy, sloppy, tasteless mush as are those of the good local U-pick.

A lovely sap producing maple was blown over — on top of — the back nursery of baby fruit trees. The popcorn rotted in the ground.

Somewhere there has to be a light — a positive side.

Well, the broccoli is thriving as are all the woody berry plants like blueberries, raspberries and currants.

I haven’t turned on the hose in over a month.

With all the accompanying fog, it is as lovely as living in Brigadoon. I can only see my parents’ barn every now and then.

With the sun at my back and a cloud burst coming in, the rainbows are fantasticly intense.

Thanks to a diversity of plantings, something will always live, thrive, grow.

And while I build my ark, in case we float away, I know that some crop or another will produce enough to help us through the harsh winter that waits at the end of this wet, hot, rather moldy summer.

How is the weather in your neck of the woods?

Oo! Break in the rain — I gotta spread some fertilizer and hoe more weeds. See you later.

(Neighbor Nancy flies out the door, letting the screen slam shut behind her. Immediately we see her slide on her bottom in a big puddle. Let’s turn our attention elsewhere as she curses and fumbles to get up. Not very dainty and ladylike, is she?!)

A Ton of Garden, A Tiny Space: 100 pounds of potatoes in 4 Square Feet


After you grab a glass of Strawberry Lemonade from the refrigerator, get your tools.

My mom shipped my this nifty link for really high yield potatoes in a tiny footprint.

Go ahead give it a try.

100 pounds of potatoes in 4 square feet

Planting Soybeans (Edamame) Quick Guide


Just a quickie about planting soybeans (edamame ) in the garden.

Soybean (edamame) spacing —  After last frost at about the same time as corn

If possible, soak seeds overnight to help germination.

Saying is: “if it is dry don’t even try.”

Plant about 1″deep.

In containers: 2″ spacing

In Rows: 6-10 seeds per foot with 15-30″ between rows

Intensive deep bed: Spread (scatter) seeds evenly to create about 3-4″ between plants in any direction  ( This one is an estimate.  It leaves more spacing due to lack of rows, but also nearly eliminates the need to weed after decent leaf developement

Square foot: 16 per square  ( possibly more )

Farm seeding rate: 80 pounds per acre

For higher yield and more nitrogen for the soil, try inoculating them.  Outstanding for crop rotation or in the planting season before introducing an orchard.

Sorry just a quickie, but I kept getting searches for this. In my zone, this is still 3 week away in my notes.

You’re Eating WHAT from the Lawn?! — A Quick Quiz


What are these four food found in my front lawn?

What are these 4 foods found in my front lawn?

Here’s the deal. Name as many as you can and offer at least one use for each.

Serious and silly answers are welcome.

As this will launch a series of adventures, if you have an actual recipe using any of the above as a main ingredient, please e-mail it to kitewrite@gmail.com. That way you can get credit and be a featured recipe in the neighborhood.

Go ahead, guess! I double dog dare you.

(Neighbor Nancy reties her apron and heads out to pick a zillion of “C” for an upcoming recipe.)

Note: 5/8/09 — Oh, I am very entertained!  Get your guesses in.  Answers will be in this Saturday morning edition of “Neighborly Advice.”   Tomorrow’s theme is “Neighborhood Gone Wild”

BTW, forgive the picture, it will not stop raining here.  Lighting is terrible.

Hint — the stem on “B” is square.

Great Depression Recipes: Rhubarb Tapioca


Keep rhubarb pieces petite since tapioca is little, too.

Keep rhubarb pieces petite since tapioca is little, too.

Join me as I head back to the rhubarb patch and we shall make some goodies.

As I have gotten a lot of requests for more of this kind of thing, here is another Great Depression recipe courtesy of the USDA circa the 1930s.

And remember, if this doesn’t suit your taste, check the Cooking/Baking Basics or Waiting-For-Payday Categories at the right for other ideas. Or try the “search” bar above the little calendar.

Rhubarb Tapioca

hm … probably the two most mysterious foods in one recipe, which, of course, means we have to try it.

Ingredients:

4 cups Rhubarb, cut into little pieces

2 cups Water, hot

1/2 cup quick-cooking Tapioca ( Isn’t it all quick cooking these days, 80 years later? Who knows? Check the box.)

1 + 1/2 cups Sugar

1/2 teaspoon Salt

Procedure:

1. In the top of a double boiler, over steam, stir the rhubarb, water and tapioca for about 15 minutes. No double boiler? Click here to make do.

2. Stir in the sugar and salt.

3. Cook for about 5 more minutes, until the tapioca is clear and the rhubarb is tender.

4. Chill thoroughly and serve it plain, with whipped cream or, perhaps garnished with a strawberry slice or two.

More rhubarb  harvest, storage and recipes to come.

Now here is the big question:

I never buy tapioca, but I always seem to have it. Why is that?

Does this happen to anyone else?

Great Depression Recipes: Rhubarb Crunch


Freshly tugged from the garden, rhubarb awaits chopping.

Freshly tugged from the garden, rhubarb awaits chopping.

(Neighbor Nancy wipes the tiniest glisten of drool from the corner of her mouth as she shares this recipe. While the aroma of a fresh batch of Rhubarb Crunch fills her little home, she digs in the freezer for vanilla ice cream.)

Ah, rhubarb crunch time. It means that spring is officially here. It means that I must make sure the strawberries are doing well. For all too soon, the last of the rhubarb will be mixed with the first of the strawberries to make batches of Strawberry Rhubarb jam for Christmas presents.

From my earliest childhood memories, Spring covered dish Suppers always required a batch of Rhubarb Crunch.

I have had it covered in cream, drizzled with vanilla sauce. Hot. Cold. Scraped from the final bits of the pan. But, hot out of the oven with a single scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream … (sigh) … heavenly.

So from the depths of the family recipe box…(oh my, is this a crusty well-loved recipe card?! ) … here we go.

Rhubarb Crunch

Ingredients:

Crunch bottom and topping:

1+1/4 cup Flour

1 cup rolled Oats, quick or regular

1+1/4 cup Brown Sugar

10 Tablespoons Butter, melted

Fruit Mixture:

4 heaping cups Rhubarb, diced

1 cup Sugar

2 Tablespoons Cornstarch

1 cup Water

1 teaspoon Vanilla

Procedure:

In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, and melted butter.

Press about half of this mixture into the bottom of a 9″x 13″pan. Set the rest aside.

Cover with all the diced rhubarb. Set aside

In a small sauce pan, combine the white sugar and cornstarch.

Over medium low heat, stir in the water. Heat and stir, until it boils and becomes clear and smooth.

Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the entire mixture over the rhubarb in the pan.

Cover with the remaining oat mixture. This, of course is the “crunch” part.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit ( a medium oven ) for 1 hour.

Serve it warm or cold.

Top it with cream, vanilla sauce or ice cream.

Warning: Beware of the Rhubarb Crunch phenomenon. Do not tell jokes while eating this dessert, because as you laugh,it will feel like your jaw will blow off. The more you laugh the more it hurts. No one knows why and it happens every time.

So, with what are you going to top your batch?

How To Plant Potatoes In Containers — Tons Of Options


Whether you are trying to avoid contaminated soil or teach the whole first grade where in tar-nation their food comes from, growing potatoes in containers is a fascinating pursuit.

Potatoes are nifty in that all the good stuff is going on under ground away from your curious eyes. Unless you are planting them in those giant clear plastic snack barrel, you never really know what’s going on under there until you dig ’em up. Surprise! There they are.

Let’s take a look at a variety on container methods.

Just click the link that interests you.

Growing Potatoes …

..in Straw — highly recommended for busy, busy teachers or anyone else that wants perfect, no-dig potatoes. Notice that the timing mentioned is for a specific locale. Now, combine this idea with any container below.

..in a Plastic Bag — plus good basic potato growing info.

…in Pots

… in Tires

… in a Garbage Can

… in a Wire Cage — perfect for those odd pieces ( 10 feet ) of welded wire or chicken wire left over from some other project

… in Biodegradable Boxeslook about half way down the page

or simply

… in a Bag of Compost.

For more on the basics of potato growing, I highly recommend Cornell’s clear, concise guide for the home gardener. Click here for potatoes.

For more gardening articles, check the beginner gardening category on the right.

Happy planting!

Any other ideas?

How to Figure Out If Old Seeds Will Grow — Germination Test


Oh my! You have a cobweb in your hair. Were you digging around in the dark recesses of the basement again?

I see. Oh, look what you found! Some old seed packets from another year of over zealous gardening.

Will they grow?

Well, there’s only one way to find out. Give it a whirl.

Here’s how:

We will use the example of corn for two reasons.

1. Corn seed looses it’s viability quickly. So it can always use pre-sprouting anyway.

2. I passed on some old corn seeds to my son’s 1st grade class for a little hands on math and science project.

Okay, let’s begin.

Most large seeds appreciate an overnight soak to plump them up and get them ready for sprouting. I just dump them in a mason jar and cover them with water. They will really suck it up and expand so don’t fill your jar more than 1/3 full of seeds. Then, fill it to the top with water.

Grab a tray or cookie pan.

Cover the tray with a layer of wet ( not really drippy, but good and damp ) paper towels.

Spread the seeds (corn, in this case ) in a single layer on top of the wet paper towels.

Cover with more damp paper towels, because corn prefers darkness to germinate.

Keep them moist with a spray bottle of water.

Note: Be careful and read the seed packet some things need light to germinated and therefore don’t get the top layer. These are trickier because you need to give them a little spritz of water more often so that they stay damp.

Wait and watch.

Plant whatever sprouted and you’re off.

Now you know what that germination percentage means on quality seed packets. 87% germination would mean that 87 seeds sprouted for every 100 attempted.

This is also a great demonstration of turning fractions into percentages. Kids dig it.

Tada! You did it yourself.

What is the oldest seed packet in your house?

Great Depression Recipes: Asparagus Timbales


Well hello there!

You look a little crisp. Did you spend the whole day in the garden? Me, too.

For those of you further south than I, here is another asparagus recipe for your garden gleanings. Again, this recipe is courtesy of the USDA circa The Great Depression. Hurray for tax dollars at work.

Asparagus Timbales

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons butter ( or marg.)

3 Tablespoons flour

1 cup milk

2 cups cooked or canned asparagus, finely chopped.

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

3 eggs

Procedure:

Over medium-low heat in a medium sauce pan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and let it bubble until the starchy smell leaves and it begins to smell like buttered popcorn.

Add the milk and continue to stir as it thickens.

Remove from heat and add asparagus, salt, pepper and thoroughly beaten eggs.

Pour the mixture into buttered timbale molds.

What? No timbale molds? Me neither. In fact I had to ask my ex-cooking teacher mama what the heck they were. “Thimble shaped” molds. Whatever.

Instead, pour the mixture into any buttered oven-safe single-serving-size bowls. So ramekins are fine …. but the straight sides might make clean removal a little tricky. Serve in the ramekin, but warn everyone they are hot as the Dickens.

Ah, oven-safe custard cups. Perfect. Rounded bottom. Okay, moving on.

Now place the little bowls of asparagus sauce in a pan of water.

Personally, I place the bowls in the pan on the oven rack then slowly add the water so I don’t flood everything.

Bake in a medium oven ( about 350 degrees Fahrenheit ) for about 20 minutes or until the mixture has set nicely.

Serve hot in the molds or overturn onto each plate and garnish.

Boy, is anyone else getting hungry?