Monday, May 4, 2009

Planting Potatoes

The weather has finally begun to feel more like spring is in the air.  Sunday we actually reached a high of +20.  There was a lot of gusty wind early in the day and again late in the day.  Jim and I had a leisurely walk around our landscape (the 5 acres with the house and greenhouses) to see what was stirring.  We found one Pasque Flower blooming.  When the flowers dry, they make a nice addition to any arrangement.  But don't touch them, because they disintegrate and the fluffy little seeds float away. The Forsythia were also in bloom, but only on the lowest branches which had been under the snow cover, which was pretty minimal this past winter.  Tulips are poking through and the poppies have been leafed out for at least a week.  In the garden the rhubarb has poked fresh green leaves through to the light.

We were surprised by how dry the topsoil is.  Deeper down there is moisture, but we do need some rain.  Certainly more than the few drops that fell last night, which were just enough to make the downspout drip outside the bedroom window.

So I decided that today was right for planting potatoes.  I started with about 40 hills of Norland reds.  I like them scrubbed, cut up and boiled lightly.  Add a little butter and some chopped parsley, and they taste wonderful and look bright on a dinner plate.
And then finished with a bed of 33 Russet Burbank.  They are nice peeled, boiled and mashed, or scrubbed and baked.  

We used to grow Yukon Gold, but I don't like them because they become so mushy with even just a little boiling.  Last year we had Bintjes for our white potato, but I found they tend to be too mushy also.

I generally prepare the potatoes for dinner a few hours ahead, either scrubbing or peeling them, and then boiling them for just 3 or 4 minutes.  Leave the lid on and let them stand in the water they've boiled in, and by 1 p.m. dinnertime, all you need to do is drain them and steam off the remaining water over a high heat.  Sometimes I cut them into wedges, oil and shake on some salt, pepper and seasonings and roast in the oven for 45 minutes.

When I finished the second bed of potatoes, I saw something that was new to me.  There is a shelter belt just north of the garden beds, and among the trees there are some Larch.  They are one of the first ones to green up in the spring, and in the fall they turn a beautiful, bright yellow.  I hadn't realized that they produce cones, and what I saw in front of me were the spring form of the cones: a beautiful little pineapple-like, delicately colored "blossom".  So here is a photo to share:  

Larch, or Tamarack, are interesting in that they have needles but are deciduous.  But this is the first time that I realized they have cones.  These pretty little conelets are only about a half inch, while the mature cones are one and a half inches.  I was really taken with the beauty of these delicate little cones with their pale green and pinkish lavendar coloring.  They were a lovely discovery in my day. 

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