Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October Garden

This is my potato harvest for 2010, from our Saint Paul garden. It's not a lot. But then, I didn't do much to get it. I decided to try the "vertical" approach to earth apple cultivation, where you plant pretty intensively in an enclosed area--like a cylinder of chicken wire, say--then keep adding soil, compost, straw, leaves, etc., as the plants grow up. At the end of the year, so I'm told, if all goes well, you just remove the enclosure and a great wealth of spuds tumbles out before you.

It didn't quite work out that way for me, but as I say, I can't complain--I devoted a three-by-three foot area of the garden to it; I planted whatever sprouty things I had left over in the cellar last spring; I added new material to the bin a couple of times, but when it got to be a hassle, I quit. As a result, my "vertical" potato tower loomed at least, oh, six inches?, from the ground by season's end.

Meanwhile, the wire enclosure served as a cucumber trellis. So I'm okay with a fairly meager harvest. As a result of over-planting, I got a lot of really small potatoes, little thumbnail-size spudlets that make you understand why the Chinese name for potatoes translates as "earth beans." I'm going to make an end-of-the-year new potato salad with those, tossing them with well-fried shallots and fried sage leaves, cider vinegar and sunflower oil--wicked local and seasonal.

It's been an odd gardening year for us, mostly because of our back-and-forth Minne'Sconsin life this summer. I finally planted a small garden at Bide-A-Wee in late July, but with no water or other amenities, making use of all that land and rich soil has been difficult. Everything we do at Bide-A-Wee is extremely labor-intensive--satisfying, but time-consuming. We're hoping to move more of the gardening out there next year.

At the same time, my city garden went woefully neglected this year. My weeding forays were strategically spaced enough that the garden was not completely subsumed, but the slugs got the upper hand in the bean plots, the carrots took three seedings before anything grew, some of my cucumbers never sprouted at all (or came up and were instantly eaten).... It was that kind of year.

And yet: The kale plants I've ignored all year are flourishing, my leeks are abundant, the pole beans are still giving (and have produced an interesting Blue Lake/Romano hybrid...). A late planting of carrots is coming along well, the tomatoes produced plenty in the very warm late summer. From where I'm sitting now, it's all good. Out at Bide-A-Wee it's Indian Summer, as we had a good frost in the last week of September. In the city I guess it's just a summer reluctant to depart.

But my recipes to work up for the week ahead include cider-braised pork shoulder, chicken in cider vinegar (maybe get some of my potatoes into that), delicata squash stuffed with a ground lamb-apple-breadcrumb mixture. Pretty autumnal stuff.

I'm off to the kitchen. I leave you with this oddity from the potato patch:

Text and photos copyright 2010 by Brett Laidlaw


el said...

Still working on book recipes then? That lamb/squash one sounds really good, even if it's 8 a.m.

I think it's great you're going to do more gardening in Sconnie despite its lack of amenities, labor requirements and the fact that it takes a lot of time. (I have the amenities worked out here but I think I will always need help with the last two!)

Funny thing about waiting this long to harvest spuds is you do get a lot of those earth bean-sized ones mostly growing from the good-sized ones' branches. I am ok with that, as they cook up in a skillet, dry, quite easily. And little fingers like to separate them out because they're so cute.

Fred said...

Here's to those earth apples. There are some truly wonderful purple potatoes at the Mississippi Market from a Wisconsin grower. Creamy, waxy and full of good taste.

Trout Caviar said...

Hi El: Yes, if my gardening was confined to one state next year I'd be pretty happy--but I'm afraid I'll probably have one more season as a commuting gardener yet.

Fred, isn't it amazing how good something as humble as a potato can be when it's grown and cooked right?

Cheers~ Brett