New potatoes

Yukon Gold potatoes still with soil on them

newly dug

There are lots of benefits from growing your own food!  You know how it was grown, when it was harvested, and that it’s going to taste better than supermarket produce.  Aside from these obvious benefits, there  is the very sensual, and sensuous, experience of harvesting your own food–tactile, olfactory as well as the anticipated gustatory experience.

I harvested my first  potatoes today.  The smell of  the earth as you dig them–newly turned, feeling cool to the touch, and the smell of  the potatoes (yes, you can smell them), and anticipation of the taste are things you’re not going to experience when you buy them in the grocery store–not to mention that you can’t get new potatoes unless you go to the farmers’ market.  The other advantage of growing potatoes is that you can skulk out to the potato patch and gently unearth some of the marble-sized ones whenever you want–you can do that without uprooting the entire plant and treat yourself to something that you’re not even likely to find at the farmers’ market.

Now, I’m not advocating that you should try to grow enough potatoes–or any other vegetables–to meet all your needs since that’s not feasible for most of us urban gardeners; however, it’s worth growing a few just for the total experience of having new potatoes.  I’m certainly not going to grow things that are readily available at the farmers’ market inexpensively–like summer squash, eggplants, or other basics.  I’m going to reserve my gardening efforts for the special treats–like a hill of potatoes, or radishes, or haricots verts.

I recently purchased The food lover’s garden: amazing edibles you will love to grow and eat by Mark Diacono (See Bibliography).  It’s worth a trip to the library to check this one out and read it–especially if you’re contemplating a foray into gardening. It will make you think about what you really want to expend time and effort on for your garden.  The philosophy is that of a true food lover!  It’s full of information on somewhat esoteric veggies that you’re certainly NOT going to find in the supermarket, and may not even find at your local farmers’ market.  The philosophy is that you should grow the things that YOU really love to eat.  There are a lot of really wonderful vegetables and fruits that aren’t readily available–salsify, scorzonera, kohlrabi and the like, as well as some that are just much better harvested as you’re ready to use them (brussels sprouts, broccoli for example) that will make you feel like it’s a different vegetable than what you brought home from the supermarket! These are the ones that deserve space in a small garden, and the time and effort required to grow them.

newly dug Yukon Gold potatoes after washing the soil away.

washed and ready to cook

In my case that includes at least a hill or two of potatoes (you can grow the in a large container) so that I can have the total experience–from planting, sneaking a few very small potatoes early to go with the fresh garden (English) peas in a luscious cream sauce, or larger new potatoes in some other simple fashion.  That means that I’m going to continue buying my yellow storage/cooking onions from other people–though I do have my little clump of “walking” onions, and some tiny carrots to give me a special treat when I want carrots featured; but the carrots for sofrito or mirepoix will continue to come from other people’s efforts. The baking potatoes that I use will also come from somewhere other than my garden–they’re basic, inexpensive, and readily available at the farmers’ market or supermarket with the organic produce.  I will grow some that are unavailable commercially because they’re something I love to eat.

mashed new potatoes

mashed new potatoes

Something as unusual as new potatoes doesn’t need fancy preparation.  Steamed, boiled (in their skins), or even cooked in the microwave oven, need only a tiny bit of good butter (preferably unsalted, sweet butter) or fruity extra virgin olive oil, some sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper for a luscious meal.  Since these were quite variable in size, I cut them into chunks that would cook quickly and evenly, and nuked them, then added a pat of butter, and roughly mashed them with a fork, added sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper–there’s the main course.  (The potatoes were accompanied by a slice of garden-fresh, vine-ripened tomato, and some haricots verts–also from the garden.)

A son goût!  

Anticipation of things to come

Beginning planting

the almost bare greenhouse

I have lived where seasons are not markedly different–and I much prefer life where there is a distinct  seasonal change.  It’s partly the anticipation of the new and different things that come with each season.  Anticipation adds a lot to my life.  Living where flowers were almost year-round left me taking them for granted. Winter for me is a period of rest, rejuvenation, regeneration–and anticipation.

Anticipation contributes to enjoying so many things–that special bottle of wine and good food, or just a new season. Planning a special meal to go with a special wine…or those winter dreams of fresh produce while you dwell on the pages of the seed catalogs, knowing that the time will come when you’ll have seeds in your hand, and that those seeds will give you food.  That’s anticipation. Winter is passing into spring….

Plug tray of tomato plants

plug tray of tomato plants

Today I worked with a friend, as I do every spring and summer, getting a start on the luscious things that come from the field and garden.   I got my hands into the dirt and transplanted about 300 tomato plants from the itty-bitty plug trays into the three-packs that we’ll use to sell them at the farmers’ market.

We started with an almost bare greenhouse–just a few things that needed some protection to winter over, but were hardy without needing to heat the greenhouse all winter.

Small tomato plants in flats

transplanted tomato plants

The tomato seeds were planted just about ten days ago–in the house, because it was really too soon to get the green house up and going.  We planted the seeds in “plug” trays–each tray has lots of little “wells” just a bit bigger than my thumb (288 of them, I think).  Once they have germinated and have the first set of true leaves (even though they are very tiny they really do look like leaves on a tomato plant) then it’s time to give them more room to grow.  That was today’s work.  Tedious, yes!

Sungold cherry tomatoes on the vine

anticipation of what is to come

But, oh, the anticipation of what is to come from those tiny plants.  These are Sungold cherry tomatoes from last season–they’re summer candy.  Those tiny plants will  grow and bear tomatoes during the summer.  Today I did transplant some Sungolds, but there were Fried Green, Cabernet, Big Boy, Better Boy, Italian Tree, and Abe Lincoln tomato plants too.  Some of these are new for us–we’re trying them out to see how they taste and, of course, how that fare in the North Caroling summers.  So we’re anticipating….we’ll have more varieties like John Baer, Valley Girl, Champion, Brandy Boy…and maybe others.  It partly depends on how well the seeds germinate.  There be more transplanting going on shortly.  Then we can anticipate the sore knees, aching backs that comes from planting in the fields.  But that will pass, and we’ll be anticipating the sun-warmed, juicy fruit than came from that tiny seed.

Healthy eating & living

I’m back from the Wake Forest Farmer’s Market–with blackberries, blueberries, sweet corn and other goodies.  One of the things I enjoy about selling at that market is the people I’m meeting.  In chatting with one of my customers today, a Health Coach, I discovered a website that has some good health and nutrition information.   Recipes here are simple, healthy and focus on good ingredients.