Just small potatoes, but they're very good eating

Unless you're of German extraction, chances are that you've never tasted the tiny fingerling potato. If you have been fortunate enough to sample it, you already know it makes excellent potato salad and is mighty good fried, too. German settlers brought the fingerlings to the United States and have cultivated them ever since, but you still can't buy them in a supermarket.

The fingerling potato is aptly named. It's about an inch in diameter and 4 to 5 inches long. Its flesh is yellowish and it has a delicious, slightly sweet flavor.

Potatoes prefer cool weather, so plant your seed potatoes as early in the spring as possible, choosing a sunny location. Plant them in ground that has been well spaded and liberally laced with fertilizer and compost. Space them a foot apart and plant at a depth of three inches.

I cover mine with a mixture of dirt and peat moss. This serves two purposes. Potatoes prefer a slightly acid soil, and it also makes it easier to dig the tubers later. Fingerlings are excellent producers.

The plants will reach a height of 2 to 3 feet. They need weekly watering. If the supply of water is scant, the tubers will not develop properly. When the plants wither and turn yellow, approximately three months after planting, it's time to dig your fingerlings.

Work slowly and carefully so that you don't injure the potatoes. Let them dry in the sun for about three hours and then store them in a cool, dark place. They're so good that you probably won't be keeping them too long, anyway.

Potatoes are fun to grow, but few home gardeners try them. On the day you harvest your own miniatures you'll agree that the fingerling is well worth your time and effort.

Fingerling seed potatoes may be ordered from the Yankton, S.D. 57078.

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