In the Garden:
Upper South
September, 2004
Regional Report

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Cranberry Red, also known as All Red, is a potato variety with a high yield of large tubers with a smooth texture.

This Spud's for You

What could be as comforting as a steaming bowl of garlic-scented mashed potatoes? Or freshly dug new potatoes, steamed then swirled with butter and minced Italian parsley? But then again, there is the delight of oven fries tossed with extra-virgin olive oil and snippets of fresh rosemary.

Ah, the glories and comfort of potatoes. Granted, a comfort not always felt when battling potato beetles. Still, once you discover the many textures, flavors, and colors available in potatoes for home-growing, those grocery store spuds will hold no more attraction than supermarket sweet corn.

Although potatoes have a bad rap for their high carbohydrate content, it may be helpful to know that they contain generous amounts of vitamin C, potassium, and protein, and, before you dollop them with butter or sour cream, are almost fat free. Growing your own potatoes is an exciting and rewarding experience, especially as you dig them at this time of year and begin to sample the different varieties. Nor is it difficult to grow them organically. You can harvest a good-sized crop in a relatively small space by using alternative methods, such as tires, mounds, or raised beds.

As this growing season winds down, make plans to grow potatoes next year. If you've grown them before, consider adding a couple of new varieties next year.

Varieties For Home Gardens
For years now the grocery store selection of potatoes has been limited to types -- Idaho bakers and small red- or white-skinned new potatoes -- rather than varieties. Now you can find Yukon Gold potatoes at most stores, but there are a lot more possibilities, with at least 200 varieties available from specialty seed potato suppliers. Some of these suppliers also sell potatoes mail order, so you can sample before you grow. An alternative is to visit local farmer's markets where you can find a choice of varieties.

Try Some of These
Here are some of the most popular "alternative" potato varieties:

All Blue - Grow these for the fun of it. Purplish skin with blue flesh. Excellent flavor and yields.

All Red - Also known as Cranberry Red, this is the best of the red-fleshed potatoes, with high yields and smooth texture.

Butte - A late-season, Russet-type noted for having 20 percent higher protein than most potatoes as well as high vitamin C; high yields, good flavor, and keeps well.

Caribe - A geat early potato with blue-purple skin, high yields, and disease resistance.

Carola - Wonderfully flavored, golden-fleshed potato that produces and keeps well with scab resistance and ability to survive more drought than most potatoes.

Red Dale - Prolific, large, early potato with bright red skin and great-tasting white flesh and disease resistance. Red Cloud has similar characteristics, but matures later.

Rose Gold - One of the best red-skinned, golden-fleshed varieties with exceptional flavor.

Russian Banana Fingerling - Try the fingerlings in potato salad, and you'll never go back to nondescript potatoes. Waxy yellow flesh and disease resistance.

Growing Information
The Center for Acroecology & Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has detailed instructions for growing potatoes organically. Visit their site at: http://www.ucsc.edu/casfs/gardenideas/potatoes.html.

The Henry Doubleday Research Association, Europe's largest organic membership organization, has a Web page on how to grow potatoes without digging at: http://www.hdra.org.uk/organicgardening/nd_spuds.htm.


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