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Updated: Jan 11


We are a potato eating family. I think most of the side dishes on our meal plan are made with potatoes.


Is this your family?


If so, then you probably have a great plan for beyond the harvest with potatoes. But, what if this is the first year you have actually grown your own potatoes and you would like a little more help with when to harvest, or how you should store them.


Then you are in the right place.


As part of the Four Step Process of Planning beyond the harvest, you will have a plan for more than just eating those delicious potatoes. Speaking of, let's learn a little more about the history of potatoes and why they have become a staple of the American Pantry!


History Of The Potato


Did you know that potatoes contain most of the vitamins needed for sustenance and that one acre of potatoes can feed 10 people for a year?


And, did you know that the potato coming to Europe would help end famine?


The Europe before the potato was one of constant famine. Population growth or decline actually all depends on that year's grain harvest. A country's strength and wealth was dependent on those same harvests as well. The Meditrainen Sea helped the countries on its border by providing more constant weather and therefore a more constant food supply. But, the northern counties did not have this luxury until the potato and a few other foods from the Americas arrived. The potato was brought to Spain by the Conquistadors in 1536.


Because the people of the Andes spent 100’s of years cultivating more than 3000 different varieties of potatoes, Europe had finally found a crop that would grow in every environment they had. From the freezing grounds in the north to the dry lands along the Meditrainen Sea. They found a miracle plant!


Potato Plant and Flower

The potato, unlike the commonly grown wheat of the times, could produce more calories per acre. Thus, it took less people to grow enough potatoes to feed the population of Europe! And with a more stable food supply the populations wouldn’t need to worry about famine!


Plus the potatoes were not as restricting as growing grain. The grain size and amount are limited by the plant but the potato not needing extra support for its fruit could just grow and grow. Oh, and storing the seed potatoes for next year's crop is so much easier than that of grain. And, I am sure you all know how easy they are to serve for dinner. Where grain would need to be cut, dried, threshed, winnowed (removing the chaff) and then finally taken to a mill to be turned into flour.


Also, did you know that the potato was used to fuel the armies of Europe?


Because the potato was so easy to grow and store and had a higher calorie count than other commonly grown grains of the time. The population of large countries could grow and develop without the fear of famine more quickly. This allowed those said countries to have the manpower to travel and conquer smaller countries of the times.


In fact, the armies of Napoleon, Hitler, Russia and Great Britain were all fueled by potatoes!


It is hard to believe what this one little discovery did to change the landscape of Europe!


This is also how the potato was brought to North America. Again because of easy storability it came across from Europe to the Colonies of America. In fact the potato is famed for feeding the pilgrims.




Potato Types:


Russet


Thick Skin with light and fluffy center. Best used for; Baked Potatoes, Pan Fried, Mashed and French Fries


Red


Thin skin and stay firm through cooking. Best used for; Baked Potatoes, Salads, Soups, Grilled, and Steamed.


Yellow


Buttery flavor with a creamy texture. Best used for; Baked Potato, Mashed, Salad, Soup, and Grilled


White


Thins skin with nutty flavor and stays firm throughout cooking. Best used for; Pan Fried, Salads, Soups, French Fries, and Steamed


Purple


Medium skin with an earthy flavor and vibrant color. Best used for; Baked Potatoes, Salad, Steamed, and Microwave


Fingerlings


Nutty and buttery flavor with a firm texture. Best used for; Baked Potatoes, Pan Fried, Steamed, and Microwaved


Petite


Similar to their larger cousins but a more concentrated taste. Best used for; Baked Potatoes, Pan Fried, Steamed, and Microwaved





Harvesting Potatoes


When?


Surprisingly, once the potato plant flowers there are potatoes under the soil that can be harvested. This happens with most varieties around the 4 to 6 week mark. Now if you decide to harvest your potatoes then you will only find small 1 in to 1/2 inch sized potatoes. These are usually called new potatoes in the grocery store and are great if you just can't wait until your potatoes have fully matured.


I, myself, love new potatoes so I will usually harvest one or two plants at this time just for that reason. In fact, next year, I plan on planting just one bed of potatoes for this reason.


Now to get the huge fully mature potatoes you are going to have to wait. Most varieties of potatoes mature at 90 days and some can even go to 120 day and longer.





The plant itself will tell you when the best time is for harvesting. The plant tips will begin to yellow and the whole plant may start to fall over. This is an indication that harvest time is getting close. When the plant falls completely over and some of the plants begin to wither and die it is the perfect time for your potato harvest.


Now I know life in the garden can get a little hectic around harvest season, so if you happen to miss this perfect window you will need to at least get your potatoes harvested before the plant completely dies back. Leaving them in the ground too long can lead to more possibility of scaling (a potato disease) or the potatoes may even resprout!


How?


Harvesting potatoes is very simple. You’ll want to use a spud fork and to keep from stabbing your potatoes you place it 8 to 10 inches from the base of the plant. It helps to have two people, one person using the spud fork to lift and loosen the soil and the other pulling the plant up at the same time. Below is a clip of my boys helping my harvest this year's potato harvest!




In the video above the stems have not died completely yet. But we were expecting a storm of below zero temperatures and didn’t want my potatoes to freeze! Sometimes the weather will tell you the exact time you will have to harvest!


Preserving Potatoes


The first step in preserving potatoes is curing! This is a very simple process, it just has a couple guidelines that are very important!


Step 1- find a place that is elevated and out of any light of any kind. Light will cause your potatoes to turn green. You can still eat slightly green potatoes but the more green they turn the taste will be destroyed as well as become slightly poisonous.


Step 2- place potatoes in one layer on a rack or piece of cardboard. Just make sure it is not on the ground.


Step 3- let them sit in this spot for up to 7 days; at most 10 days. It is also best at the midway mark to go in and turn the potatoes if the rack you chose to put them on does not let air circulate all around them.


Curing allows for the skins to toughen up and any wounds from digging to heal. This is very important for long storage. The number one enemy to storing food is moisture!


Step 4- This may seem a little tedious but this the most important part. You are going to need to inspect every single potato. You are going to be looking for bruises, wounds that didn’t heal, soft spots, and anything that makes the potato susceptible to rot. These potatoes need to be set aside to be used up quickly.


Step 5- As you have your hands on your potatoes you should sort them by size. This makes preparing dinner a little easier as every size will be better suited for different recipes. It has also been found that smaller potatoes don’t seem to store as well as the larger ones. One rotten potato can cause all your potatoes to rot very quickly. It is so important that you sort your potatoes. You just have to get your hands on every potato!



Now it is time to store your potatoes!

Storing potatoes is going to need certain conditions to be able to last you all winter. It is always better to run out of potatoes before they all rot on you.


The Proper Conditions


  • As low of a temperature as you can; between 42 to 50 degrees

  • 42 to 45 degrees will keep them great for boiling and other recipes

  • But if you want your potatoes more for french fries and chips then you can be closer to 47 to 50 degrees. This will stop the sugars from converting too much and thus give you a whiter french fry. You will potentially have more sprouting of eyes at these temperatures.

  • Store in a breathable container to allow for proper air circulation around the potatoes.

  • Dark to avoid greening. Like I said above when your potatoes turn green this can cause them to taste bitter and if too green become hard to digest!

  • Lastly, do not store with other produce like Apples and Pears as they let off Ethylene gas that can cause your potatoes to taste bad and rot quicker.


This year I discovered a new way to store potatoes. Now, I guess this is not a new way but more of a new way to me. That is pressure canning them. I am not an expert at canning so my best advice is to follow the below steps from Ball Jar’s Recipe Book to the letter. I canned my potatoes two ways. One was where my boys and I peeled about 30 lbs of potatoes and cut them into bite size pieces to be used for future mashed potatoes and soups. Way two, was the really small potatoes. I canned any potatoes that were too small to save for next year's seed potatoes. I use these for quick and easy new potatoes.


Storing Potatoes

Potato Recipes


Canning Potatoes


2 to 3 lbs of White or Red Potatoes per Quart

Salt

Water


Wash Potatoes; drain. Peel Potatoes. Wash again. Leave small potatoes whole; cut large potatoes into quarters. Cover potatoes with water in a large saucepot; boil for 10 minutes. Pack hot potatoes into hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Add ½ teaspoon salt to each pint jar and 1 tsp to each quart jar, if desired. Ladle boiling water over potatoes, leaving 1 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process pint 35 minutes, quarts 40 minutes, at 10 pounds pressure in a steam-pressure canner.

This recipe can be found in the Ball Blue Book; Guide to Preserving!


Using Canned Peeled Potatoes


Using these precut, peeled and cooked potatoes made weeknight dinner so easy!


Can be used in soup by just pouring directly from the jar

Can be used for mashed potatoes by pouring into a large pot, bring to a boil, drained, and mashed!


Using Canned New Potatoes


I loved using these potatoes. It can usually take up to an hour to make new potatoes recipes depending on the size of the potatoes. But, because they are precooked, they only need to be warmed in the oven. Which only takes 10 minutes.


Drain potatoes!

Pour drained potatoes into a shallow baking dish

Cut up about ¼ cup of butter in two small chunks and place on top of potatoes.

Sprinkle with the seasoning you like to place on new potatoes. I like onion powder, parsley, and garlic powder personally.

Next back in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until butter is melted and potatoes are warmed through!

Enjoy! They are just so good!




Potatoes may seem like just a simple vegetable but I hope now you see the true potential of growing your own potatoes. As well as making a plan beyond the harvest with potatoes.


If you would like to learn more about growing potatoes or just start a garden in general. Then grab the “Start A Garden Checklist”. This checklist was developed to help you start the garden of your dreams without having to deal with the overwhelm of not knowing where to begin!


Until next time,


Pray, Just Plant!


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