You say potato, I say Yukon Gold

Photo courtesy of Craig Summers Black
Straight from the garden: This is what 65 pounds of potatoes look like.

I was new to Iowa – and vegetable gardening – and working on a magazine photo shoot. Talk rolled around – as it always does on these shoots – to what we were doing in the garden. And the photographer told me he was spending a lot of time planting potatoes.

Really? I was baffled. Because to me (at that time) it was as if he professed to being swept up in his bottle-cap collection. I couldn’t see the point.

And that’s because I had spent decades eating store-bought potatoes, which to my mind taste somewhere between wet newsprint and warm lard.

But the photographer convinced me: Just as there is no comparison between the taste of home-grown tomatoes and the red water balloons you buy in the store, there is a world of diff between your spuds and their duds.

He whispered two words, almost conspiratorially: “Yukon Gold.” It felt like a moment in “Treasure of Sierra Madre.”

The next season I planted many, many of those marble-sized seedling potatoes, and planted them individually, with good to great results. The taste was, as you might have guessed, eye-popping – as though they were already buttered.

I also tried growing those purple potatoes and some fingerlings, but they were utter failures. The Yukons must be bulletproof.

The year after that. I bought a sack of regular old seed potatoes, cut each one up in four to six pieces (making sure each slice had one or two eyes) and popped each chunk into a shallow hole. This time: an even more bounteous crop, and with the same wondrous taste.

And so it went every year since, to the point that this year I reaped 65 pounds of pommes de terre (seems the French have a word for everything).

This season I finally came up with a painless method of washing the mud off each and every tater before bringing the haul inside and down to the cellar:

I lay the newly harvested spuds on the lawn and spray them down with the hose, the nozzle on about medium force. This loosens the dirt, which can then be rubbed off with your thumb in seconds (point the hose at the potato with your other hand as you rub), and the mud disappears, top-dressing the lawn a tad. No muss, no fuss.

Also new this year, I got my wife to write down her method for cooking my favorite way of serving this produce so I can try my hand at it. It’s kind of like a healthy version of French fries. And here it is:

Anita’s Oven-Roasted Potato Spears

1/8 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, thoroughly washed and cut into 1/8-inch spears

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C).

In a large bowl or plastic baggie, combine oil, garlic, herbes de Provence (if using), and salt. Stir in potatoes until evenly coated.

Place potatoes in a single layer on a roasting pan or baking sheet.

Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally to brown all sides.

What else I’m into this week: Guitar shopping. I was thinking for the longest time of a Martin D28 [PDF] until I ran across this new magazine, Guitar Aficionado. The pictures of classic axes are like boudoir photography.

Editor's note: Look for more blog posts by The Transplanted Gardener, Craig Summers Black, at our blog archive. For more Monitor gardening, see our main gardening page and our RSS feed.

You may also want to visit Gardening With the Monitor on Flickr. Take part in the discussions and get answers to your gardening questions. If you join the group (it’s free), you can upload your garden photos and enter our next contest. We'll be looking for photographs of fruits. So find your best shots of summer's blueberries, peaches, plums, etc., and get out your camera to take some stunning shots of early fall apples. Post them before Sept. 30, 2009, and you could be the next winner.

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