Home-Grown Potatoes and Lovage   (November 1, 2014)

There are few equivalent joys to harvesting the fruits of one's labor and the Earth's bounty and preparing them for your dinner table that very day.

One of the fun things about having a garden is experimenting with vegetables and herbs you haven't grown before. As with all experiments, many if not most will be failures or not-quite successes. Given the wide range of soils, micro-climates, sun exposure and seeds, this is to be expected.

Earlier this year I was surprised to find vigorous potato plants spreading over a corner of our small garden. A few plants do well in winter--Russian kale and chard being the stand-outs. Our neighbor John P. had generously bestowed a small lovage plant on our garden last year, an herb/vegetable that I had never encountered, but which John explained was of ancient heritage in Europe, where it is used in soups as well as with potatoes.

The lovage plant took awhile to get acclimatized, it seems, but it has grown wonderfully this year (attracting the attention of snails, alas, which I have been picking off by the dozens).

I had never grown either potatoes or lovage, or so many varieties of tomatoes. Those of you who are familar with potato plants already know how the potatoes push up to the surface when ready for harvest, as if presenting themselves for the pot.

Our soil is heavy (i.e. clay) and the only root crop we've had luck with is beets, so it's nice to find another root crop that tolerates the heavy soil and limited sunlight of our small urban patch of earth. (After almost 20 years of compost and nurturing, the soil is loamier now but still heavy in comparison to sandier soils.)

A potato plant, flowering beneath the scarlet runner green bean trellis:

Here's a photo of a recent potato harvest (with a few of the plum tomatoes featured in From Home-Grown Tomatoes to Home-Made Pasta Sauce), and some lovage leaves.

I boiled and mashed the potatoes, and blanched the lovage leaves (though they can also be eaten raw--they taste a bit like celery leaves to me, though others say they have a lime-like flavor).

We served the potatoes-lovage with turkey-burgers and Gujarati-style long beans (from a local Asian grocery, not from our garden--our bean plants are now fallow), and a discounted $4/bottle California Zinfandel red wine.

Can a tiny plot of land feed a family? Of course not. But it can provide a variety of high-quality food and a wealth of experience and pleasure--a topic I covered in The Hidden Value of Gardens.

There are few equivalent joys to harvesting the fruits of one's labor and the Earth's bounty and preparing them for your dinner table that very day.

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