Gardening: New Potatoes

Easy to grow, hard to perfect, the humble potato is a wonderful addition to any garden. When you grow potatoes, you quickly realize how easy we have it these days. They are some work, from planting, digging up and cleaning. Some might even say the convenience of store bought is worth more than the taste, but there’s nothing like new potatoes—those first potatoes, little and thin-skinned that first appear in April and last till July.

Depending on when you planted your seed potatoes, you can have new potatoes as early as April and as late as July, but generally June through early July is the time of new potatoes.

They are sweeter in taste and hold their shape, so they are great for boiling. Just a little butter and salt and you’ll have a wonderful addition to any meal. Try them creamed with peas from the garden or add herbs to liven them up.

There are two ways to go about harvesting your potatoes. If you just want a few, you can feel around the plants until you find some decent-sized potatoes and pull them off the mother plant. The other way is just to pull the whole plant up. This obviously has its problems, as you’ll not get the benefit of what the plant would produce over the full season. It is slightly more time efficient though. I sometimes do this with the end potatoes to give more room on the path between different vegetables.

Often potatoes at this point have more mud from the moisture of the wet season. You’ll want a bucket or bowl when you harvest. If you plan to eat them right away, fill the bucket with water. If they are for another day, let the dirt dry and then rub it off with a cloth and store them in a cold, dry spot.

There’s a slight temptation to wait until potatoes are fully grown before digging, but besides missing the taste of new potatoes, pulling some plants or harvesting a few from under the ground will give you a good idea of  how healthy your potatoes are and if there’s anything you need to do to fix problems.

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