Friday, January 02, 2009

my seed potato order

I didn't know 2008 was the UN year of the Potato.

The International Year of the Potato has raised awareness of the potato’s fundamental importance as a staple food of humanity. But it also had a very practical aim: to promote development of sustainable potato-based systems that enhance the well-being of producers and consumers and help realize the potato's full potential as a "food of the future"

Ah yes, a "food of the future". I was thinking the same. But in a less global sense. I'd like to expand my own little potato patch this year.

2008 was my second year growing potatoes. I grew a few plants in 2007 and they were great. So in 2008, I planted a patch with two 15 foot rows. I planted a mix of fingerlings from a bag I bought at the supermarket, plus a couple supermarket russets. Again a great crop.

This year I'd like to double the size of the patch, purchase real seed potatoes from a good source, and grow a nice mix of different varieties. I've read that 20 lbs of seed potatoes plants 100 feet of row (1 lb plants 5-8 feet), so I figure I should get about 12 lbs of seed.

Fedco is a company my local CSA likes and they have a nice potato section. Here's my list. Six varieties. 13.5 lbs total. (I can give a lb or two to my parents.)

Butte: medium russet skin, white flesh A favorite russet of ours for its tastiness and “just-right” mealiness. Heavy yields of attractive tubers are great baked, mashed or fried. Butte is higher in vitamin C and protein than any other variety. Medium-sized upright spreading plant has red-purple flowers with white tips. Resistant to common scab, hollow heart, and net necrosis. Also has field resistance to late blight. Released in 1977 from Idaho. Russets require wide (16–18") spacing, good fertility and regular moisture. Organic 2.5# $7.00

French Fingerling: dark rose-red skin, yellow flesh This show-stopper with glistening smooth rose-red skin and rich yellow flesh slightly splashed with pink wows us every season. Creamy taste and firm texture make it a favorite. French Fingerling produces numerous large tubers and has become important for growers and home gardeners alike. Shows some resistance to potato leafhopper. Tall spreading plant. Organic 1.0# $5.75

Cobbler: buff skin, white flesh A real old-fashioned favorite from the late 1800s. Selected from a seed ball of Early Rose, ancestor of many early cultivars, by an Irish shoemaker. Round tubers have smooth buff skin and creamy white flesh. Medium-sized plant has white-tipped lilac flowers. Resistant to black leg and fusarium storage rot. Conventional 2.5# $4.50

Dark Red Norland: dark red skin, white flesh Norland has long been the standard early red, delicious for those first tubers of the year. Excellent for boiling and good for baking. Dark Red is a selection from Norland for its brighter skin color. Matures slightly later than its parent, with consistently higher yields. Medium-to-large plants with purple flowers. Fair storage. Also available as conventional seed. Conventional 2.5# $4.50

Green Mountain: buff skin, white flesh Many consider this 1885 heirloom to be the most flavorful of all. People ask for it by name year after year. O. H. Alexander of the Green Mountains of Vermont bred it from Dunsmore (a seedling of Burbank) and Excelsior. Dry texture for outstanding baking qualities. Good appearance and great flavor don’t fade in long storage. Resistant to fusarium storage rot, black leg and verticillium wilt. Susceptible to viral diseases. Also available as conventional seed. Organic 2.5# $7.00

Red Gold: red skin, yellow flesh Red Gold continues to impress us with its delicious flavor and beautiful appearance. Grow these for that first potato, quickly steamed then tossed with butter, dill and a touch of salt. High yield of 2" tubers, easily as early as 65 days, make it a top choice for growers. Excels as a new potato for salads and baking. Does not store well. One of our best sellers. Introduced by AgCanada in 1987. Also available as conventional seed. Organic 2.5# $7.00

potatoes (Solanum tuberosum)


Anonymous said...

Fun! Those look like great varieties. I am also ordering my seed potatoes from Fedco, but I am getting La Ratte fingerlings (Barbara Kingsolver raves about them in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). Sadly, I'm ONLY going to have about 5-8 feet of potato bed, so I think I'll only grow that one variety. Or I guess I could throw in a potato or two from the supermarket. Did your different supermarket-derived varieties all work about as well as one another this year? Any varieties I should avoid?

Wayne Stratz said...

potatoes are not on my every year list, but I have been wondering about how growing fingerlings would go... I was looking at some just last night with my eyes wide open.

kathy said...

My fingerlings did very well last year. I would recommend growing some. I had a mix of La Ratte, Russian Banana, French and Rose Finn. All were really nice.

My supermarket russet also did well. I think maybe the Yukon Gold I planted didn't do much. That's probably a variety to avoid. Fedco writes, "Be aware that Yukon is known for poor emergence and low yields."

Just FYI, since supermarket potatoes are usually treated with a chemical growth inhibitor to delay sprouting, I think its a good idea to make sure the potatoes have started sprouting before you plant them. Last year, I bought my potatoes in January and they were starting to sprout nicely by the end of April.

Dan said...

wow, I can't wait to see all your potatoes growing!

I grew fingerlings last season, they are a really nice looking spud.

I just read a news article that potato purchases have double as well as the prices. I guess with fugal being the thing to do now people are starting to eat healthy home cooked meals!

Mrs Flam said...

Have you Heard of Oca ?

I have seen it in a few catalogs this year.

I thought it a Nifty Tuber. I'd love to hear your opinion.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for the pictures, your seed potatoes sound great! I don't have a large patch for potatoes - can you think of dwarf or smaller varieties that would work well? I am thinking fingerlings, but any other thoughts?

Dana Gordon said...

Great potato garden plant, there. And I had *no* idea that it was International Potato Year in 2008 either. Sorry I missed it!

Anonymous said...

Mrs Flam,

The main problem with Oca is it doesn't develop large tubers until December or so, and the plants are not frost hardy. This means you have to either live in a pretty unusual climate, or you have to go to a lot of trouble to keep the plants going until early winter.

It's not that you shouldn't try, but it is a bit of trouble.


Have you ever considered growing potatoes from seed? They don't propagate true to type, so every seed you plant will result in a different potato. Here's a picture of some potatoes that were grown from seed:

If you're interested, I'll ask around and see if I can find someone with interesting potato seeds who's willing to share. I don't think it's the kind of thing you can easily buy at a seed store.

Also, here's a nice video on the year of the potato in Peru:

kathy said...

livinginalocalzone, Cornell Univ lists two varieties as small plants: Red Thumb Potatoes and Monona Potatoes. I don't have any experience with these.

I would say to just limit it to one or two plants of your favorite variety (like a fingerling) if you don't have much space. I grew a red, a purple and a white plant at home two years ago and they did nicely. I squeezed them in between the eggplants and tomatoes. They did pretty good with the shade.

My neighbor grew potatoes in a garbage can last year. I've hear a garbage bag works well to. Potatoes need about 5 gallons of soil.

Also if you plant an early variety or if you dig the potatoes before maturity as new potatoes you can reuse the space for a fall crop.

kathy said...

Patrick, Nice potatoes! And very interesting video. Thanks for the links.

It would be nice to try potatoes from seed. Can collect my own seeds? My plants produced lots of little fruits last year.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you can certainly grow your own potato seeds. Even though the potatoes you grow will be different from their parents, it's best to take the seeds from a potato you like, because it will be related. I'm pretty sure the plants can also cross pollinate, making for more variability.

Potato seeds are started indoors exactly like tomatoes, then transplanted out into the garden when the ground warms up enough for potatoes to be planted.

If you're lucky enough to get some potato seeds from a plant breeder (like the picture I linked to), they will have selected the seeds from interesting varieties and cross-pollinated them in an interesting way for you.

I think I know via-via of some potato seeds that come from a well known plant breeder, if you are interested in these. I'm not promising anything, I have to ask first.

It's only if you're interested! I don't have any space this year myself.

The gene bank in Lima also sometimes sends out varieties to people who request (and pay for) them. I don't have any idea what they cost, but I don't think it's too much. They also handle the paperwork for importing them into the US. If you're interested, I can give you some more information about this too.

Of course you can also grow nice potatoes from Fedco seed potatoes!

Mrs Flam said...

Thank you for your thoughts.
I think I may try some in containers.
I am known foe lugging things inside , i have a whole room that i dedicate to my plant babies during the winter. :)

Lisa said...

I've had a lot of fun growing potatoes in the last couple of years -- I've ordered from Wood Prairie Farm, but I'm sure there are lots of good sources. I like to try different varieties, so I have color/texture variation -- interesting ones from South America would be fun to try.

I'm thinking I might try the hay-bale planting method for a couple of 'hills' too, this year as an alternative to the garbage can approach, which sounds useful.

Hope your potatoes do well this year!


kathy said...

Hi Patrick, I'm just going to do the 6 varieties of Fedco seed potatoes this year. Its a big step for me. But thanks for suggesting and offering to help obtain real potato seeds.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy,

I can fully understand. I think I might have made the same decision if I were you. If you're interested some other time, let me know.