June 19, 2015

From Peelings to Potatoes~ A Gardening Cinderella Story

About 2 years ago, we decided to dive into the world of a family garden. One of the crops that Love-of-My-Life was adamant about planting was potatoes. His father, however, told him that we wouldn’t be able to grow them because he himself, had never been able to. Well, we took that as a challenge, and since our property does not have the same soil as his does (ours has far less clay), we were very hopeful that we could successfully grow a potato crop. What we didn’t realize at the time was, we were going to be discovering one of the ultimate forms of vegetable recycling (and a serious money saving tip) in the process.
When you decide want to grow potatoes, the first thing that everyone tells you that you need is…potatoes! It is commonly known that seed potatoes are the way to grow your next years potatoes. But what do you do, if you don’t HAVE seed potatoes? This was our dilemma the year we decided to grow our own potato crop.  We didn't have any, and we really didn't want to spend the money to buy any. So what did we do? 

We looked in our potato bin.
The name says it all! :0)
The previous year, we had purchased a monster bag of potatoes from the wonderful store Costco. And it was a monster bag. I think it was 15 or 20 lbs. We are potato people. I haven't yet met a potato I didn't like. But, it always ends up that by the time you get to the bottom of the bin, there are less than desirable potatoes waiting. Usually they are soft. Really soft. And if they are actually GOOD and untreated potatoes (which MOST of what you buy is NOT--go with organic to make sure), they might even be starting to grow sprouts, or as we commonly refer to them…eyes. Most people will throw out a bin of potatoes that look like this.
You might not want to eat these...but they are perfect for planting!
That year, we discovered that our potatoes at the bottom of the bin had quite a few eyes.

Because the eyes were growing well and since eyes of potatoes are really "potato sprouts", we wondered: "If we planted these, would they grow?"

So rather than throwing out the soon-to-be-rotten potatoes-that-no-one-wanted, we pulled them out and examined them. Each of them had at least 5 or 6 eyes and they were fairly spread apart. So Love-Of-My-Life got out his knife and started slicing them apart. He figured that since it was the eye that was the sprout, he could separate them out and they might grow as individual plants. Much like separating out a cluster of tubers in your flower garden. Now instead of one potato to plant…we had 5 or 6! He continued doing this for the rest of the potatoes in our bin…then got the same quality (or lack there of!) of potatoes out of his dad’s bin and repeated the process. By the time he was done, he had a nice big bucket of sprouted potato chunks to plant.

But then we REALLY took a chance. Love-of-My-Life’s mother came out with a big bowl and asked us if we wanted “it”. What was it? It was a bowl full of PEELINGS!!!

Peelings? Why on earth would we want peelings, right? We thought the same thing at first.

But wait…you see when she peels a potato, she actually pares it. Meaning she uses her KNIFE and does more of a slicing than a peeling. This meant she had chunks of peel with eyes attached! Yep, in her effort to use up the last of the potatoes, she had carefully pared them leaving the eyes intact, then used the rest for her mashed potatoes. (If that isn't making your potato go the distance, I don't know what is!) So she was giving us a bowl of peelings with eyes.

Could THESE actually be planted and produce something?
The peelings with eyes. No smaller than a quarter.
We decided it was worth a try, because we had nothing to lose and everything to gain! So we planted it all—the sliced apart potato chunks with eyes and the peelings with eyes. It was most definitely a gardening adventure.
Baby Britches helping plant the potatoes

Love-of-My-Life sorting through our box of peelings and chunks

Carrying the next batch to plant
So what happened? Well…we waited. And waited. and then....
They grew!
Rows of big beautiful lush potato plants!

We wouldn’t believe it at first, but everything we planted grew to be big beautiful potato plants! They grew phenomenally where we had them planted. Our cat used the patch as a jungle of sorts to explore and snooze in. And at the end of the season (when all the plants lie down), we all eagerly waited to see what we could turn up underneath…for that is where the treasure of the potato hides. 
Treasure hunting under the plants for potatoes

And low and behold…our peelings had become…POTATOES! 
So excited about the potatoes he found!
That first year, we harvested 75 lbs of potatoes. Yes, you read that right. From maybe 30-50 almost rotten potatoes that we sliced or pared to keep the eyes (instead of throwing them out like most people do), we harvested 75 lbs of NEW potatoes! It was a definite success and we’ve been using the same process ever since with the same fabulous results! And the cool thing...now the potatoes we are using for our plantings each spring, can all trace their "roots" back to those first few peelings...
Some of our harvest from last year
So please—before you go and invest in seed potatoes—look in your potato bin! It’s the real Cinderella story for gardening…for who would have thought you could turn rotten peelings into next years big rugged potato crop?!

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