All Hail the Potato!

Sharon October 31st, 2009

Still relying on the kindness of strangers (and in this case, casual acquaintances) for content, as the internet service periodically dumps me off as I travel through VA on my way back to Eric and the boys.  I thought y’all ought to see this analysis that Nate Hagens did of his time and energy invested in growing potatoes.  He observes that the EROEI on potatoes is better than on oil! 


I think that the lowly potato and its unrelated but similarly named buddy the sweet potato are two of the most hopeful things on the earth – where else can you get so many calories, so easily?  What else tastes as good?  I’ve told this story before, but one year I dumped about half an inch of comp0st on my gravel driveway, dropped seed potatoes on the ground, covered them with mulch and harvested a respectable harvest, with a return of about 6-1.  That’s on my driveway!

To Nate’s request for a crop alternative to time spent on facebook, I’d suggest the mangel.  I grew two varieties this year, and engaged in slacker gardening – I didn’t weed them but once, didn’t thin them at all, and have harvested a collection of beets ranging from a light 9lbs to a hefty 26lbs.  All are sweet, tasty and wonderful. My goats like ‘em too!  And the greens are glorious as well. 

Much to write about my trip, but that will have to wait! 

Long live the spud!  All hail the sweet potato!  Viva la mangel-wurzel!


10 Responses to “All Hail the Potato!”

  1. Bellenon 31 Oct 2009 at 11:30 am

    I never knew mangels were good for humans to eat – only knew of them being raised to feed cattle. Understood they were too fibrous and tasteless for us. Thanks – that’s my ‘learned something new’ for today:)

  2. Claireon 31 Oct 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Good thing to grow both the sweet potato and the potato, if you’re in a climate that supports it. This year I got about a 7 to 1 yield on my potato crop. Not bad for the lower Midwest, which is not the best area climate-wise for potatoes. However, my sweet potato harvest … these should do better than potatoes here because of our long, hot summers … is very close to zero. It’s not that the plants didn’t grow prolifically. More likely, a combination of nearly 13″ of rain and cooler than normal weather in October, plus an infestation of voles, either rotted or ate nearly the entire crop. My vote goes for the polycultural garden every time!

    Next year I’ll try mangels. What variety did you grow?

    BTW, my potato crop, which was harvested in July, is just as good now, even under less than ideal storage conditions (5 gallons buckets sitting on the basement floor, during a time when the basement temperature was 60-70F). Maybe I can store enough till spring to plant next year’s crop! I’m going to try it.

  3. Mark Non 31 Oct 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Lost more than half my potatoes last 2 years to the voles. I’m making some changes in my cultural practices for next year including cutting back on my use of mulch in the garden. I will risk having drier soil – a small price to pay for discouraging rodents. A dry sunny summer next year would be quite welcome and unexpected, actually. I think I inadvertently created a vole paradise with thick mulch covering the garden paths and many of the beds. The voles won’t have such an easy time of it next year.

  4. Wendyon 31 Oct 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Here in Maine, the potato harvest was disappointing. One farm I frequent wasn’t able to offer 50 lb bags, like they normally do, because their crop was so lean. Most farmers I speak to say something similar. So, we’re stocking up anytime we can find them, because like the article says, potatoes are a great calorie food – and a huge, important part of our diet over the winter.

  5. Throwback at Trapper Creekon 01 Nov 2009 at 12:01 am

    After threshing our dry beans, and comparing the space they take up and the yield, potatoes are a clear winner, since dry beans are a dicey crop at best. 12# dry beans, per 100′ row vs. 125# spuds per 90′ row.

  6. Theresaon 01 Nov 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Wow, what a neat coincidence! I came across this pro-potato post just after I’d written something myself about “chanelling my innner potato” when times get tough….

    Safe travels Sharon!

  7. Apple Jack Creekon 01 Nov 2009 at 10:05 pm

    I did ‘lazy potatoes’ this year and it turned out really well! I am in the process of turning some former pasture ground into a garden, which means killing off the VERY determined grasses and adding a lot more topsoil in the form of compost (around here the land is mosty a wee bit o’ nice dirt on top of clay). I had enough nicely finished compost for the raised beds, but not enough for the potatoes – so I spread out the kind of composted but not quite done stuff (straw/hay/sheep/cow wastes) around the edges and stuck potatoes in it (not purchased seed potatoes, either, just the sad ones from the potato bin that had started to grow eyes). We didn’t weigh the harvest but we did get lots of potato plants, and we didn’t even really try!

    Next year I think I may pick up some actual seed spuds and try some different varieties.

    We always grow beets, because we love ‘em, but … a 26 pound beet??? I’m struggling to even imagine what that must looks like. :) This I gotta try!

  8. Debon 02 Nov 2009 at 5:20 am

    You could roast the beet for Thanksgiving dinner! That’s bigger than any turkey I’ve ever made.

    Deb in Wis

  9. Sharonon 02 Nov 2009 at 9:36 am

    I don’t know if all mangels are equally tasty, but I used intermediate yellow, which I got from Bountiful Gardens, and we’ve liked them.


  10. ToilingAnton 06 Nov 2009 at 3:28 pm

    When I was a kid, we had a sprouted sweet potato left over from a homeschool science project (you know, the one where you stick one end of the potato in a jar of water and somehow magically get electricity from it… or something?). We tossed it out into the compost pile in an unused garden bed; the greenery continued to grow and sprawl across the garden but we paid it no attention. Months later, when clearing out a tree that had fallen on that end of the garden in November, we discovered that underneath all that foliage, in a neat little layer between the soil and the pine straw mulch, was a whole crop of sweet potatoes. I forget the total weight now (this was about 16 years ago), but the largest single potato was a 15-pounder! We ate on those unexpected spuds for the whole winter, and once we acccidentally realized how incredibly easy it is to grow them, my mom has planted them on purpose ever since.

    I have a sweet potato growing in a planter on my apartment porch and can’t wait to dig it up and see what’s buried there. :-)

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