Potatoes! Spuds! Taters! Papas!
Who doesn't love potatoes? Potatoes, a member of the Solanaceae (Tomato) family, are the world's fourth largest food crop, and for good reason: In temperate regions, no crops comes close to topping the amount of calories per acre that potatoes provide. Not only that, but potatoes are also high in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and a whole slew of minerals.
Potatoes originated in the Andes Plateau over 7000 years ago and spread to many geographic areas through trade. Today, there are well over 1000 different varieties of potato, coming in a rainbow of colors, shapes, and sizes. Potatoes can be white, yellow, red, and even purple. Potato varieties are generally classified in three broad categories depending on their maturity date: early season (<90 days), mid season (around 100 days), and late season (>110 days).
Mid-March is a great time to plant potatoes, but they can be planted earlier or later to widen the harvest window. Potatoes are basically a cool-season crop, growing best when soil temperatures are between 60 and 70 degrees. Potatoes enjoy lots of organic matter and slightly acidic soil. Too much nitrogen will cause potatoes to grow lots and lots of leaves, but few tubers, so do not over-fertilize. Potatoes can be grown in the ground, in hills (above the soil surface), in raised beds, or even in pots (at a rate of about one seed potato per gallon of soil). Solanaceous crops, especially potatoes, should be rotated on a 4 year schedule to keep disease pressure as low as possible.
Not sure where to start? Here are a couple suppliers of certified disease-free seed potatoes:
After you've got your potatoes harvested, why not try your hand at this Appalachian-Style Rosti (potato pancake) recipe?
Oh, and by the way, you can always just buy your local taters are your local farmers market! Our next market is Saturday, March 23, 10AM-12PM. See you there!