Seed-potato pick up in Newport

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I received an email postcard from The Maine Potato Lady the other day informing me that my seed-potato order was ready for pick up at their warehouse. So yesterday I loaded the two boys in the car with provisions, and drove nearly an hour over to Newport (no small feat with my boys) to pick them up. With our small car, I figured it would be cheaper to make the drive than to pay for delivery of the 20 pounds of bulky potatoes.

I first discovered this local Maine business several years ago, and had kept the pamphlet–so this year, as I geared up for my big plunge into agricultural business, I looked them up online and ordered several different varieties.

The directions were detailed and easy to follow, with the exception that they described highway routes, and we took Route 2 through Canaan.  I drove past the driveway the first time, mostly because I was frazzled from refereeing the hoopla in the back seat.  But we found it, and I unleashed my chaos upon Alison and Paul LaCourse and their employees.  “Summer” had taken a shoe off in the car during the trip over there, so I had to pause to help him put it back on (any other time he’d have done it himself–naturally), meanwhile a big orange-red dog came out barking a notification of visitors to his people, and “Winter” was bouncing around outside the car excitedly barking back at the dog, which only served to egg the beast on.

At length Paul managed to coral the dog in the office with Alison, and a young man named Ethan got my name and the name of our “farm” and found our potato order.  While we waited for Ethan to check the packages to make sure everything was correct, the boys and I took in the interior of the warehouse–the pallets and shelves of numerous varieties of potatoes.

It only took a couple of minutes, then Ethan loaded my potatoes into my car and we bade them all farewell–until next year.

I brought home five varieties of potatoes, which I picked by season and use.

dark red norlandFor example, our early-season potato is the Dark Red Norland.  Alison says this potato steams well, which I imagined would make a great potato salad, or–even better–enclosed in a tin-foil packet with herbs and butter and cooked on the grill.  She also says that this variety is easy to grow; hopefully that means it does really well under my care and we get a bumper crop of early spuds.

I brought home two mid-season varieties.  The Kennebec and the Purple Majesty.

The Kennebeckennebec is one of the top ten varieties grown in Maine and is a dependable, high-yielding crop which can be utilized any way you like, and stores well, too.

purple majestyPurple Majesty I chose mostly for the novelty of it’s color.  I thought it would be fun to experiment a little bit, and according to Alison at The Maine Potato Lady, it is high in antioxidants, and makes gorgeous chips and fries.  Gotta eat these ones fresh though, they won’t keep for long!

katahdinI chose two fall and storage-crop potato types.  The Katahdin is an heirloom from 1932 is a standard here in the northeast as it is drought resistant, high yielding, and adaptable to most growing conditions.  And according to Alison these make good soup potatoes.

red pontiacOur second storage potato is the Red Pontiac–great as mashed potatoes, produces high yields that store well, but is susceptible to second-growth and hollow heart.  I’m going to try it anyway, and we’ll have to see how it does.

I’m really excited about our potatoes this year.  Not only are we trying new varieties from a family-owned and operated Maine business, but I am also going to plant them using potato towers.  Planting potatoes in barrels is becoming more and more popular among home gardeners, but the patato tower takes the concept a step further, using welded wire mesh to form a cage, which you then fill with organic matter a layer at a time, planting your potatoes in between.

I like this method better because the shoots can grow out the sides and have better access to sunlight and air than they would if they could only grow straight up through several feet of soil and compost and other potatoes.  To me it seems like having to grow up through all that would choke the stems of the potato plants.  After all, you’re not supposed to mound mulch and soil up around the base of a tree when landscaping because it can strangle the tree, wouldn’t such a practice have the same effect on potatoes?

Anyway–this is what my towers should look like later this summer:

potato towerpotato tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t worry–I’ll let you know when they’re ready; I’m sure you’ll want to try some of these mouth-watering varieties too!

About Samantha Burns

Sam(antha) Burns is a farmer and beekeeper at the Runamuk Acres Conservation Farm in Maine. She has spent more than 20 years gardening and writing, has kept bees for more than a decade, and worked 4 years in the Call Center at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Sam uses methods of regenerative agriculture and bee-friendly farming on her 53-acre farm, and is a passionate advocate for wildlife conservation─especially pollinators. In her spare time she enjoys writing, and tormenting her 2 teenaged sons with her banjo-playing!

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