We plant a vegetable garden in the spring, hopeful for a harvest of some sort, depending, of course on the weather and how hard we work towards that goal. This year we moved things around the big square plot, “crop rotation” is the official title. The old farmers say the soil is depleted by planting the same seeds in the same row year after year, so the potatoes moved next to the zinnias and pushed the corn rows to the edge of the garden along side the pumpkins and squash. My seed potatoes were the withered remnants of last years haul. Once I had my row hollowed out, I cut them into chunks, careful to be sure they each had at least one ‘eye’ (the better to see you, my dear…), and laid them along, before heaping on a mound of sun warmed dirt, tucking them in so they could get on with the business of growing up.
Fast forward to a midsummer afternoon. The lush green vines are fading and flopping over, a signal to me to grab my gloves and get to work. In a bigger operation, I know potato forks and shovels do the trick, but for my small row, I prefer to use my hands. Grabbing a handful of vines and tugging upwards, the beautiful gold is revealed. Carefully, I shake off the dirt and work my fingers deep into the loosened soil. The yellow skin is tender to the first breath of air and I don’t want to scrape or bruise my treasure trove.
There is something about growing what we eat, a satisfaction and pleasure in the accomplishment. Over the years I have tried a few different varieties of spuds (as my grandma called them). Russets, Reds and for a couple of years a variety with a royal purple flesh, but I always come back to Yukon Gold. Russets seem too common, reds got scabby and the purple, for all their brilliance, faded in the cooking pan, leaving tasty but homely heap of gray mashed potatoes. Yukon Gold on the other hand never disappoint. I especially love to pierce them (gently, kindly) rub them with olive oil and cracked pepper and bake them. They are so rich and buttery, they don’t need any additions when they come out of the oven, but I must admit, a pat of butter doesn’t hurt.
One year my granddaughter requested, for her special birthday dinner, a baked potato bar. Oh my yummm!! Roasted Gold with an array of toppings with a nice tossed salad was a perfect celebration feast.
Once my potatoes are dug, I spread them in the shade for a few days, it seems to toughen up their skins a bit before I put them away. I’d love to say I’m storing them in the old stone root cellar, but really, that sounds pretty spidery and I don’t have one anyway, so I tuck them in the coolest corner of the garage to be enjoyed long past the warmth of this summer day. I doubt if a true gold miner in the vast Yukon territory felt as good as I feel when I am done with this chore. I find myself humming old Neil Young tunes, Harvest, Heart of Gold, Old Man.. as I take off my gloves and dust off my jeans.
Peace. Love. Amen.