Saturday, April 16, 2011

The amazing Potato

I have had relatively little experience in growing potatoes over the last many years. Even though it was quite possible to do it in Alice Springs (and i did grow a few crops at the garden plot), in the break down of competing priorities and limited gardening space the potato lost out. After all a lettuce transports much less well than a potato.

Potatoes putting in growth in January
So discovering the wonders of the potato has been quite enjoyable. They are an amazing plant.
 Easy to grow
They are a big producer.
 In places that are generally too wet t o grow grain crops, the potato is the starch source that you can rely on.
Unlike grain there is virtually no processing and harvesting is super-easy
They put on very good growth in the cool of spring when there is plenty of soil moisture and less evaporation. They can be stored in the ground until you need them.
few pests problems Grasshoppers don't seem to bother them and nor do bower birds so they can be grown without too much protection.

Potatoes are their first hilling
These are just some of the things that have occurred to be but I'm sure there are many more good things to be noted.
I obtained a range of potatoes this year to try out. The varieties i grew were:
King Edward (must check this as theu look like a picture i saw of Kestrel potatoes)
Tasmanian Pink eye
Dargo goldfields
Pink fur apple

All of them grew quite well but i could probably increase their productivity with better prepared soil next spring.

There is much advice about the need to grow certified seed potatoes rather than just grabbing any from the supermarket shelf. Although this is not necessary all of the time, you may want to do this if you cannot obtain seed potatoes from someone who knows potatoes and their diseases and has been growing them for many years. I ended up with some potato scab in one variety from growing off the shelf potatoes . A lesson learned.

My favourite potato i grew this year was the last on my list - Dargo Goldfields. The plants were still quite green when in harvested them while all the other varieties had died off above the ground. However the potatoes were fine, reasonably large and ready to harvest. The history of this potato is that it was found by  Ralph Barraclough in a Lyre bird scratching in an old gold mining area is Gippsland, Victoria. I have had it passed onto me from a local seedsaver.

I have found that it boils well roasts beautifully, and is just very stunning to look at.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Autumn riches

The variety of produce that continues to come into our orbit makes me feel very rich to live here. Our climate here is pretty perfect for growing Chestnuts and Hazelnuts and both of these are now dropping their amazing booty on the ground. Despite the clouds of white cockatoos that have been visiting the trees over the last couple of months, there are still too many Hazelnuts to be harvested by our neighbours alone. Thus we (Our very talented WOOFers and myself + small child) decided to give them a hand.
One of the Hazelnut varieties available
With buckets in hand we sat, kneeld, crawled, squatted and reclined amongst the dark soil, leaf litter and abundant fungi while deftly picking up whole, bright new seasons nuts. There are many varieties of Hazelnuts and we could recognise at least 5. This year with all the rain and lack of heat has been great for these Hazelnut trees and the nuts are full and sweet.

This variety has a large wide nut
The taste of the nuts in this fresh state is quite refreshing but to store them longer term (up to 2 years) the nuts must be dried.

Adding nuts to the drying racks
Luckily it is cold enough at night here to warrant a fire so with a bit of adaptation we managed to throw together some drying racks around out heater.
The bigger picture
According to our neighbour they may take about a week to dry, so we are still in the process of seeing how long it takes. The first hazelnut dessert is currently being planned!