In Praise of a Purple Potato

photo, purple majestic potatoes In the last century, (about 12 years ago), Americans discovered there a color palette for potatoes instead of the standard swatch of white . There were always sweet potatoes around, but it took Yukon Golds with slightly yellow color and their buttery flavor, and to break through the American mindset that potatoes only came in white. In a country that perfected the dehydrated potato flake, I guess what else could be expected? Contrast that with Peru, where potatoes originated, potatoes come in a wide spectrum of colors. Check out this gallery from the International Potato Center.

With the interest in heirloom vegetables growing, the idea of potatoes being more than just white, is becoming more mainstream. There still is a lot of people who don't know about anything other than white potatoes.

In the late winter and early spring, the question I get  is "What are you growing this year?" This year, the response included Purple Majesty Potatoes. I got a a good number of responses that were a mix of confusion and intrigue, which is one of the reasons I do what I do. I love that response. It demonstrates an interest in learning about alternatives to what they know. Since people also know that I'm a storyteller, they know there will be a good story for them to listen and learn from.

When I first learned about the Peruvian Blue potatoes, I was surprised. I had only known the white potatoes of my youth. Russets from Maine, and baking potatoes from Idaho. Once the red skin potatoes were introduced into the mix, they became a staple growing up also. I have to admit, I don't find the red skins to be all that, and will choose Yukon Golds in the supermarket over them without hesitation.

Last year, I had my first experience digging potatoes. They were of course, the red skin kind. Within 20 minutes of digging them, they were roasting in my oven. I also had enough to make some fresh gnocchi. Light as a feather, and tasty as could be, it was at this point I knew potatoes would be in my next garden.  I was certain they wouldn't be white. I wanted the Peruvian blues, but as it worked out, I ended up with the Purple Majesty. I keep reading about how great the Majesty were for chips or fries. Except for some misdirected BBQ Rib flavored potato chips, there has never been a bag of chips I haven't liked.

The Purple Majesty potato is not for long term storage, and is considered a medium starchy potato. While chips and fries were the best I've ever had, shredding them and making has browns is the way to go with these. They bake well, and I've seen recipes that use them as mashed potatoes. I didn't try them as mashed because once I went hash browns, I never went back.

Growing potatoes in the ground is easy. They can grow in containers also. While I grew them in the ground, I am growing sweet potatoes in a container. I'll let you know that turns out.

Time Waits For No One, and Neither Do Seed Potatoes

Lately, I've been overbooked. The velocity of all the transition going on in my life right now is burning me out. Last week as I sprung forward, off the tracks I went. It's spring planting time. The calendar and nature sure are on schedule, perhaps nature is a bit ahead of schedule. It seems March is the new May around here, which adds to chaotic feel of things here.

So last week as I was swirling around in the chaos, which works well for my creative process and nothing else in my life, I opened a cabinet door to get something I rarely use, and wa la, there are Purple Majesty potato plants growing up from the bottom shelf.

Oh yea. Seed potatoes. Now what? Perplexed to start. I've never grown potatoes before. I thought when I ordered them, they shipped a bit early. When they arrived, I put them in a dark, comfortable place. I hoped they would be ok until my community garden plot became available on March 24, 2012. The potatoes, which have no concept of man's imposition of time on nature, had no desire to wait for me, or the community garden regulations. Can't say I blame them, when you have to sprout, you sprout.

Inspiration strikes. I have to get them in soil. I can be brilliant at times like this. I stopped what I was doing, and headed out to find some peat pots. The larger the better I thought. It was going to be a challenge for the larger peat pots. The local stores are just getting up to speed with their spring planting goods. I couldn't find the larger round peat pots I wanted, so I got the largest square ones I could find.

My thought was to get the pieces of potatoes into a peat pot. The instructions with the potatoes said to cut the potatoes into pieces with a minimum of 3 eyes on each piece to be planted, cyclops style I suppose. Some of the pieces ended up with only a pair of eyes, which I hope will see them through to sprouting.

When it comes time to plant in the ground, the soil will be compacted from being in the peat pot. I won't have to remove the contents from the pot. I could place the pot in the ground, and I can cut the pot down the sides and peel it away.

I assembled thirteen pots, some showing signs of responding well a week later. I'm glad the potatoes are responding well, the gardener on the other hand, is trying his best not to end up as a compost pile.

I'm very fortunate and grateful that so much is going on my life. It's a very fertile time, and the potato plants growing in a cabinet prove that. I bought an iris last year called Banish Misfortune. I planted it, and asked it to work it's magic. It did evidently. I will say when it bloomed I was ready to banish it to the compost pile. The magic wasn't immediate, wasn't in the form I thought it should be and as a storyteller, you would think I would have recognize this.

I recognize it now. It goes to show that the person who encourages you to live your life as a story you write everyday, that said person being me, needs to tells a story about his life to open his eyes to his own process from time to time.


Gardens 2012, Yes Plural

photo of gardens One would think a single garden would be enough, but this one, me, doesn't think when opportunity is presented. Turning the think off is a moral to my story. So, as this story offers itself to someone who is paying attention to the what ifs, I'll leave the thinking to the what ifs since it's the what ifs that drive any story. I'll just create it. It's less pressure that way. <GRIN>

As it would be one day, I was cleaning out my garden plot when a couple came by. We started talking. Turns out they were from another community garden, and invited me to check their garden out. Well I did, and that's the reason for the plural, gardens, in the title. I now have a plot there too. It will be an interesting contrast since their community garden is completely different set up than my current one. A Tale of Two Gardens if you will.

So that means more seeds, or at least it did to me. More land to play with, different sites, different energy, a really great challenge. And, it provides so much opportunity for content. Life's a story unfolding everyday and looking at your life that way is a major theme that pushes me and Vanishing Feast into a great learning expereince that I can share with everyone. Telling a story with a garden, or as it will be this year, gardens, is awe inspiring. I'm very fortunate.

So in no particular order this is what I'm growing;

Romanesco Broccoli - It's renaissance, baroque and modern art in perfect fractal geometry. And, it has a nutty flavor. Love the sense of humor of all that. The last laugh is this, it's a finicky and difficult plant to get heads to set.

Another mystery tomato - If you recall last year I had the phantom seeds that I'm growing side by side with the Bisagnano #2. This year I found some old seeds I saved and forgot about. The first heirloom tomato plant I bought was an Orange Oxheart, that same year I grew my first Cherokee Purple. Now I know tomatoes don't cross pollinate but this tomato grew on the Cherokee Purple very late in the season that had the shape characteristics of both tomatoes in equal parts. One's an oxheart, one's a beefsteak. They are quite different shapes. The tomato never got fully ripe, but I did save the seeds. I thought one day I should try growing these. This year I will. I expect they will sprout and they will be Cherokee Purples. We'll see, the ol' to be continued...

Purple Majesty Potatoes - Potatoes do very well at one of the garden plots, and last year, thanks to a neighbor, I got to dig and cook some fresh potatoes. I never had better potatoes. So why not gow my own, and purple ones at that. The color in a heirloom vegetable is exaquiste. I expect to be stunned seeing purple this heirloom produces underground.

Silver Edge Squash - A Native American heirloom which are grown for their large seeds which have a silver edge. I love freshly roasted squash seeds and pumpkin seeds, so I'm psyched. The Native Americans honor Mother Nature, and their varities demonstrate that.

Crapaudine - It could be the oldest beet in existence. A description from 1885, written in the French book, The Vegetable Garden, stated it was one of the oldest varities at that time. It's estimated that this beet has been grown for 1000 years. The shape is more carrot than beet, and has a very dark color. I honored for this to be the first ever beet I'll grow.

Morado Purple Corn - A rare and old variety of corn from Peru. More pruple. I never grew corn either. I have this and a Chocolate Brown Popcorn. One for each plot.

That's it for now. More to come about at least one mellon and one pumpkin. Another vegetable variety grown for more than 400 years, and of course tomatoes.