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Potatoes for planting and eating March 24, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, recipes.
Tags: , , ,

Silence Dogood here. As potato-planting season approaches, our friend Ben and I are expecting the arrival of seed potatoes from Wood Prairie Farm, a small but phenomenal organic potato-growing operation in Bridgewater, Maine. (Prairies in Maine?! Go figure.) We first stumbled on Wood Prairie this winter while reading an article on ‘King Harry’, a new pest-resistant potato from Cornell’s breeding program. (Ack—I can’t remember which magazine featured the article, but I think it was Mother Earth News.) There weren’t many sources for ‘King Harry’, but Wood Prairie Farm was one of them.

One quick look online (www.woodprairie.com) and we were hooked. Wood Prairie Farm is definitely our kind of place—small and passionate about what they’re doing and offering. For those who’d rather cook than garden, they offer an incredible selection of gourmet organic potato varieties, special types of organic wheat, spelt, corn, rye, and oats, numerous healthful bread and pancake mixes, organic sprouting seeds and equipment, organic cheeses from Neighborly Farms in Vermont, organic nuts, organic dried fruits, Maine maple syrup, and much, much more. For those who, like me and our friend Ben, love to garden and cook, they offer organic wheat and oat seed, carefully chosen organic veggie and herb seeds, certified organic seed potatoes, organic supplies, and on and on. Their colorful, personable catalogue offers descriptions, recipes, tips, and lots of hard-won, first-hand experience, and should be on every gardener’s shelf.  You even get $5 off your first order! Thank you, Jim and Megan Gerritsen.

As you might imagine, our friend Ben and I didn’t leave our Wood Prairie adventure empty-handed. In addition to ‘King Harry’, we purchased seed potatoes (despite its name, this is not actual potato seed, but small potatoes that you cut up to plant, leaving several sprouts or “eyes” on each piece, or plant whole) of ‘RoseGold’, ‘Rose Finn Apple Fingerling’, and ‘Russian Banana Fingerling’ as part of Wood Prairie’s “Experimenter’s Special.” And we couldn’t resist their “Organic Potato Blossom Festival” pack, with “exceptional blossom beauty and fragrance.” It includes ‘Red Cloud’, ‘Carola’, ‘Cranberry Red’, ‘All-Blue’, ‘Onaway’, and ‘Butte’ seed potatoes, enough, according to the catalog, to plant a 4-by-4-foot bed. 

We also succumbed to some of the more unusual veggie seeds—‘Latah’ tomato, Wild Garden Mix fall and winter salad, ‘Cardinale’ lettuce, ‘Plum Purple’ radish, ‘Yukon Chief’ corn, and ‘Cosmic Red’ hot peppers. Wood Prairie sent the (beautiful) seed packs promptly, and will send us our seed potatoes when it’s time to plant them in our Zone 6 garden. We’re like two kids at Christmas waiting for the box to arrive!

Potatoes played a starring role in our recent vacation in North Carolina, too. We were staying with family, and the octogenarian patriarch is the family chef. He’s always a bit bemused by my vegetarianism, but gamely tries to come up with veggie-friendly recipes when I’m down there. This time, he struck gold with a main-dish potato salad. Mind you, our friend Ben and I are generally not fans of potato salad. Why eat a cold, mayonnaise-laden conglomeration of potentially bacteria-laden (and definitely calorie-laden) glop when you could eat luscious hot potatoes?

However. This particular potato salad would make a convert of anyone. It’s not only not gooey and gloppy, it has a special character thanks to using russet (aka baking) potatoes instead of the waxy-textured potatoes that are staples of potato salad. Think baking potatoes would make a gross, crumbly potato salad? I did, too. But it simply ain’t so. This salad is so good it flew off the table—even in March, not traditional potato-salad season—and into the mouths of friends and relations who kept trying to discreetly leave the table but made themselves conspicuous by returning with mountainous platters of second and third helpings. (What little was left of the enormous amount Mr. Hays had made mysteriously disappeared during the night, much to everyone’s chagrin. The culprit failed to come forward, but I have my suspicions. Are you reading this, Ben?!)

Of course, I begged for the recipe. Mind you, when I make it, I think I’ll try some hot just for the hell of it—I really do love hot potatoes. But trust me, it’s just fabulous cold. Served with a simple side salad of beautiful lettuces—maybe with arugula, scallions, sliced almonds, and orange segments in a light balsamic vinaigrette—and a dry Riesling, you have a perfect meal. So without more ado, here’s the recipe. Enjoy it!

Mr. Hays’s “Baked Potato” Salad

3 pounds russet potatoes

1/4 cup cider vinegar

2 T chopped parsley leaves

1 t salt, or to taste

1/2 t fresh-ground pepper, or to taste

1 cup chopped celery

4 large eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and chopped

1 cup diced red bell pepper

1 cup diced sweet onion (Walla Walla, Vidalia, or red Spanish type)

1/4 cup each diced sweet and dill pickles

3/4 cup mayonnaise

Cook the potatoes 25 to 30 minutes in boiling water, until easily pierced with a fork. Drain potatoes and remove skins by rubbing them off with a paper towel while still warm. (Note from Silence: If using a thin-skinned potato like ‘Yukon Gold’, I’d try this with the skins on.) Cut the potatoes into 1-inch pieces and toss with the cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and parsley. Stir in the celery, red bell pepper, pickles, and onion. Fold in the eggs and mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Serves 10. (Note from Silence: Yeah, right! Serves 5 is more like it, especially once everyone’s had a taste.)   




1. KS - March 24, 2008

Good morning!

You’re correct – the article about Wood Prairie Farm and the Gerritsens was indeed in Mother Earth News. Here’s the online version: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/2007-10-01/Royal-Potatoes-Beat-Bugs.aspx.


Alison Rogers
Assistant Editor

Thanks, Alison! And sorry for my pathetic memory. I really enjoyed the article, and hope any Poor Richard’s Almanac readers who’d like to learn more about pest-resistant potatoes will check it out for themselves!

2. M Sinclair Stevens (Texas) - March 24, 2008

Thanks for giving me an idea where to look for seed potatoes. I find it difficult to find sources for seed potatoes because I need to plant them so early down here in Texas, before it gets too hot. Usually I’m reduced to planting whatever’s sprouted in the pantry.

This is a great one, MSS! Check them out and let me know what you think!

3. hayefield - March 24, 2008

I tried a sampler of varieties from Wood Prairie last year and had great results. ‘Swedish Peanut Fingerling’ and ‘All Blue’ performed beautifully in large pots. ‘Caribe’ and ‘Butte’ were in a raised bed, and they produced well too. The russet ‘Butte’ potatoes were absolutely fantastic for baking! I’m experimenting with growing potatoes from seed this year, but I have my doubts about how that’ll turn out, so I imagine I’ll be ordering from Wood Prairie again next year.

Glad you had great results from Wood Prairie. They look like good people! Let us all know how the potatoes from seed work out, Nan; with all the fragrant potato flowers I’ll have this year, I expect I’ll get good pollination and have quite a few seed balls myself, if I’m only brave enough to try them (but of course, they’ll almost certainly be hybrids, unless the different cultivars bloom at radically different times–yeah, right!). I of course love the idea of growing potatoes in containers, and have ever since I first read about growing potatoes in tomato cages filled with hay in an early copy of OG. Talk about back in the day! But hmmm, maybe I’ll try it (container, not hay)…

4. Jean Ann - March 25, 2008

I love their catalog…even the layout and design captures their mission…I didn’t order from them this year, but I did plant some of the same varieties you did…can’t wait to see them perk their little heads up! Thanks for checking out my blog…

Thanks, Jean Ann! Sounds like you’re a kindred spirit!

5. Jim Gerritsen - March 26, 2008

Thanks for your kind words about our farm, The recipe souds great and we’ll try it out once the busy seed shipping season slows down.
Jim Gerritsen
Wood Prairie Farm
Bridgewater, Maine

Thanks, Jim! Let me know how you all like it!

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