Tuesday, June 12:

Of the thousand pounds of potatoes we grew last summer only two crates remain.  Some went to the monastery on the grounds of which we have our biggest garden, our acres being so largely vertical.  The monastery doesn’t store potatoes but uses them when they are first harvested, thin-skinned and sweet.  Our household eats potatoes twice a day, year in, year out; fried with onions and ham at breakfast, other ways at dinner.  About one hundred and fifty pounds of potatoes are set aside at harvest and stored at the back of the root cellar; these are the seed potatoes of the next year.

There are two schools of thought here about seed potatoes.  One school holds that you should save the best potatoes for seed because they have the best genetics and should be propagated.  There is much sound reasoning in this argument and it is the standard line of thought in seed saving.  However our experience, limited maybe but our own, has been that small whole potatoes when used as seed are less likely to rot in the ground than cut potatoes, whether these have been cured before planting or not.  Under perfect conditions potatoes sprout right up, and in this case seem to do fine, but should the weather turn wet or cold just after potato planting there is a good chance your cut potatoes will rot where they are planted.  Whole potatoes, on the other hand, have pretty good holding power, as you may see by the volunteer potatoes that come up in your last year’s potato patch.  To be on the safe side, we plant both kinds.

Our root cellar is rather more humid than the ideal, but the potatoes do very well there, and we see very little rot, almost none in fact.  Pontiacs, round, red, thin-skinned potatoes, bear profusely, and we get more of these; but the Yukon Golds store longer, and we save them to eat when the Pontiacs are gone.  Somehow, though, a crate of Pontiacs was overlooked and we are eating them now before the new potatoes begin.  These last potatoes have sprouted twice – and twice had the sprouts rubbed off — and are withered but sound.  A visitor to the farm was surprised to learn that in this condition they are still edible; Americans don’t like to eat things that don’t look new from the factory, even when we know better.  Actually you won’t know the difference when they are cooked, unless maybe they are a little gummy when mashed.

It is curious; crated potatoes sprouting will sometimes send a root right through a neighboring potato with no harm to it.  You can eat it just the same after you cut the root out.