gather potatoes while ye may

There is a blight sweeping the entire northeast, taking out all variety of nightshades. For awhile I was pretty confident I’d duck it—my tomato plants were the healthiest I’d ever seen, thanks to a combination of generous rainfall and a neighbor who is very free with his rotted manure. But last week, I began to see the telltale spots on a few stems. They were the poorest of the plants, so even as I ripped them out I retained a bit of hope for the monsters that remained.000_0825

I also plucked off a pile of shiny green tomatoes before throwing their fast-blackening stems on the rubbish heap; I had had a lot of success ripening the last tomatoes of 2008 indoors, and I figured these orphans could coaxed to redness in the same way. Or I could always experiment with some recipes intended for unripe tomatoes.

But after only a couple of days, I had this:

000_0839

And then brown spots started to appear on my potato plants, too. In the space between showers yesterday afternoon, I was able to get most of them out of the ground. It’s early, of course, but with potatoes it’s not so much a question of ripeness as mass. The longer you leave them in the ground, the longer you will have a store of potatoes in the larder. The early wee ones are a lovely luxury, though, if you can bring yourself to arrest their growth. Or if you are forced to.

This year I planted fingerlings, and while a few had reached full size in time for this forced harvest, most were the size of a walnut—or smaller. There was also a rogue red potato that sprouted on the edge of last year’s compost, and this unplanned pregnancy resulted in some whoppers, one as large as my outstretched hand.000_0842

I fear these guys, like the green tomatoes, will have a shortened shelf life, due to their brush with the blight. So I’m planning to eat them as fast as I can. Last night I started with the smallest—only about the size of cannellini beans—sautéed with their skins in butter. Normally, when I’m preparing an indulgent meal for one, I reach for the arugula. But my favorite peppery greens—especially pungent this time of year—seemed a bit much for these delicate tubers. I went instead with butter lettuce, sorrel, and nasturtium blossoms, tossed with a very soft vinaigrette sans vinegar—olive oil, vermouth, a touch of sweetish creamy mustard to help with emulsification. Yes.000_0841

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4 Comments on “gather potatoes while ye may”

  1. sangerinde Says:

    Oh K, I am SO sorry for your tomatoes. And your potatoes. Is this something that hangs around, or will next year be a fresh start?

    • fullofbeans Says:

      It can stick around, yes…. I already employ a basic rotation plan, but from what I understand this is a nasty business and no section of my existing garden will be dependably safe next year. So I will need to dig up a fresh plot of earth for the nightshades…. and hope for the best.

      • sangerinde Says:

        well ***ttttthhhhpppppfffffttttt*** to late blight.

        btw, if you’re near the internet around 1:30PM a week from Friday, you can hear me live singing Knoxville and the Letter Scene…check my website for the details & link.

        (end shameless promotion)

        wishing you all the best…big hugs from Copenhagen.

  2. carina gebl Says:

    sorry about the tomatoes.. but the other stuff looks and sounds fantastic!

    we just got back from sweden. had a fantastic time. hows your summer been? busy I can tell 🙂 see you soon.

    plan to head for the operas asap. suggestions?

    hug your friend carina


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