The potato is my friend

Thinking about becoming more sustainable food-wise…and up against the 2000 calorie diet on a fifth of an acre, times 6 people, it is obvious my eco-plex won’t be going it alone! We will always be reliant on external farms or game for the majority of our calories and nutrition. My CSA out in Palmer (that I pick up my first haul from the season from today) provides mainly leafy greens and other low calorie, but high nutrition veggies. For base calories, the potato and salmon is where it is at. I am doing poorly with both this year, and will likely need to purchase quantities. I have been focusing on planting perennial berries and apples, fun food and the only reliable source of local sweets (bees apparently get angry if you succeed in overwintering them, and are usually shipped up each year to beekeepers here – a reasonable compromise, but not truly sustainable. Birch syrup is another option if you have a whole lot of birch trees and firewood – but it takes 100 gallons of sap to one gallon of syrup – over 2x that of maple). I attempted to grow 4 tires’ worth of potatoes (a paltry amount to start with), but only one is sprouting – I think I rotted out the others with inattention. I will make this a priority for next spring – I feel the need to get good at making lots of potatoes, wintering them and saving seed potatoes. Not enough to feed me, they do grow plenty of potatoes in the valley, just enough to feel I make a contribution to my diet. I also want to get 3 or 4 hens next spring for eggs. And I need to figure out the fishing – I’ve never fished the local fish creek, but I should probably start because I’m not sure I’ll always have the time, energy, and access to a vehicle to truck on down to Kenai for dipnetting. There is merit, though, in the carpooled weekend on the peninsula to collect clams, fish, and seaweed (for the garden and or food).
In any case, I will have local stirfry and salad tonight! My first CSA pickup includes Pak Choi, spinach, mizuna, 2 heads of lettuce, arugula, radishes, scallions, and chives. Luckily I have gotten used to my 15 mile/day summer bike commute and am not craving mass quantities of fat any more.


3 responses to “The potato is my friend

  1. Don’t trust potatoes – remember the Irish Potatoe Famine! I’ll keep some taro and pineapple growing for you far north folks.

  2. Just don’t trust one single variety of potato. The Inca bred hundreds of different subspecies, for every microclimatic niche and soil type in their mountain empire. The real story of the Potato Famine is the danger of monoculture…

    Michael Pollan’s book “The Botany of Desire” talks about potatoes, and three other crops we humans have had intimate relations with. Very fun reading.

  3. My favorites are yukon gold, german butterball, and a red skinned one. But my absolute favorite is a blue/purple potato sold by a peruvian (I think? South american in any case) woman at our farmers market (she grows them down the peninsula in Seldovia). I always get them from her as fingerlings, and eat them all up, but I’ll have to try to save some to plant. I have had much past potato saving and growing success, but I am trying out the growing in tires of leaves for the first time, and need to work out some kinks. Actually, my accomplished CSA growers lost most of their potato crop last year, while mine was great – so I guess you gotta plan for the wonky year!
    Diversity is the key to many things – I am growing or will be growing as many varieties of plants in as many locations and communities in as many ways as I can in my yard. Botany of Desire is well established on my to read list, it’s just never in at the library! Guess I should put a hold on it…
    I think the Hawaiians had like 400 species of sweet potato, right dad? I do like sweet potatoes – and taro and pineapple 🙂 I have friends up here experimenting with sweet potato in their greenhouse, maybe it is a good crop to grow in big containers and take in to finish up the long season needed? I don’t know if there are any photoperiod adjusted varieties though. Now pineapple I’m going to have to keep relying on you for, dad!

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