Friday, December 11, 2009

Your Friend the Potato

Internal brown spots on Elba potato

I find potatoes to be one of the most gratifying of the annual food crops to grow. I know they can be purchased very inexpensively at the grocery store, but I do enjoy the bounty just the same.(And did you read what Michael Pollan said about pesticide usage on Idaho potatoes?) There is something especially satisfying about sinking a spade into the soil and unearthing a clump of potatoes. I also like the fact that I can store them. When I have grown crops with short shelf-lives like lettuce the eating opportunities came and went too fast, especially for those unnamed members of the household who found it more convenient to buy lettuce at the grocery store than to walk out into the garden and cut some. Aaarg.

One of the varieties of potatoes I have grown for the last two years is Elba. They are quite satisfactory, but they do have the curious propensity for brown spots in the middle of the largest of the tubers. (see picture above) Apparently not much is known about why this occurs, although most seem to think it is a physiological response to some sort of environmental stress. Anyway, it hasn't bothered me particularly. The spots are easy to cut out, and while they are said to reduce shelf-life I just use the largest potatoes first. They are the only ones with the spots.

I will be taking at least a year off from growing potatoes. 2009 was a horrific year for late blight. Fortunately I only had a small percentage of my crop damaged, but in order to avoid a major crop failure next year I think I will get out of potato growing for a while. I have not been very careful about removing all potential sources of inoculum; I don't want to spray; and I don't have a fresh bed available to rotate them into. Not to worry, I won't be lacking for other things to grow.