Would You Like Fries With That?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sack of Spuds Anyone?
It's a line I know well and repeated often during my youthful years in high school and later in college. And the answer was almost always, "yes, absolutely." Because if you're going to commit the foody sin of treating yourself to a real burger -- might as well complete the 25-to-Life sentence with a side of deep-fried french fries.

But the fries Bill Bird dished up all those years ago cannot compare to the sacks of spuds currently sitting in a cool and darkened corner of the Bird GarageMahal. The first big harvest of 2011 is now in -- and as you can tell by the photo -- we're in "Fat City."

Or -- if we convert these all to fries -- we soon will be.

After a less-than-stellar 2010 growing season -- the Backyard of Bird has bounced back with a spud harvest for the ages. A lot of factors play into a harvest like this -- which includes good seed potatoes and a green-thumbed wife named Venus willing and determined to pack every last square inch of a 4X8 raised bed with as many spuds as possible.

Colorado Rose Red monster. One of many
But there's also a lot of luck that plays into a harvest like this. You just don't grow a giant Colorado Rose Red baker like the one to your left without a little assistance from Mother Nature. And -- she delivered this year -- in spades. The late spring rains that distressed many gardeners by pelting tiny tomato plant starters with non-stop rain (and hail), turned out to be Manna from Heaven for potato growers.

The leafy potato plants that completely covered the bed soaked it all in. Inch after inch of steady rainfall hit all sections of the raised bed in an equal manner. And -- some weeks later when the plants began to die back in the graceful way that potato plants do -- a wonderful sight greeted me and the wife that is Venus.

There's GOLD in Them Thar Hills!
Tiny treasures poked from the top of every plant. Tiny treasures in every corner. Tiny treasures here. Tiny treasures there. Tiny treasures everywhere. I felt much like a gold miner in 1849 California. No need to dig into the ground son -- the gold is right here on top for the picking. Fattened by late spring rains, potatoes were literally bursting out of the ground.

I guess that late rain wasn't such a bad thing after all -- now was it?

There's a special and strange satisfaction that is so very hard to describe when you've literally lucked into a harvest like this. You forget about the hot sun beating down on your neck and back. The dirt between your fingernails isn't a bother. There's a treasure here to get out of the ground and you can't quite dig fast enough. Each shovel of dirt reveals a new prize and brings a new smile to the face of a gardener.

Fat Fingerlings
I suppose it means the work that you put into growing the crop -- the hours spent fertilizing and weeding the garden -- have now paid off with a monster harvest. While you always hope for the best when harvest arrives -- there's always a surprise here and there. There's nothing quite like finding a single Colorado Rose potato that's large enough to feed two people or fingerlings so fat with growth and production that you begin to wonder why you didn't plant more of them.

But it really doesn't hit you until you've turned over the last shovel full of dirt. You don't truly understand until you've poked through every last inch and bit of soil for spud surprises with that spade fork and get every last offering. Only then do you look at those burlap sacks fat with potatoes. And only then does it hit you.

What in Hades are we going to do with all these potatoes?

Pick a Potato
My guess is -- and it's a guess because we don't have a large scale -- that 5 lbs. of seed potatoes resulted in a harvest of 80-100 lbs. of fat potatoes. But -- without a scale -- it is just a guess. I can only tell you that those sacks were not easy to lift when the job was all said and done. Lugging them from the Bird Back 40 into the safety of the GarageMahal didn't do the back any favors.

But last night's french fries were some of the best I've ever had. Home grown potatoes are unlike anything you can find at your local supermarket, but you will find them in stores that cater to organic tastes and desires. You will almost certainly find these at Farmer's Markets scattered around the Sacramento area.

Sacks of Spuds. Harvest Completed
My thanks to the fine staff at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply for once again supplying a superior batch of seed potatoes. Special recognition to Capital Nursery as well for holding three sacks of fingerling potatoes in reserve for me when the wife that is Venus found an extra spot or two for additional seed potato plantings.

It's Sunday morning in Sacramento. Did someone say hash browns?