29 July 2010

Prolific potato plants

Yesterday I dug up two more potato plants. There are still 18 or 20 plants left. I gave the dozen or so potatoes from one plant to a couple of friends who had stopped by for an afternoon visit.

The second plant that I pulled out was amazing. You can tell from the picture below: it produced just over 30 potatoes, many of them pretty hefty. I just put them on the scale and they weighed in at a little more than three kilos — nearly seven pounds. From one plant!

Three+ kilos — nearly seven pounds — of
King Edward potatoes from one plant!

If all the other 18 plants produce only two kilos of potatoes each, that will be 36 kilos, or nearly 80 pounds. And if they produce more... well, it's incredible. It is time to start giving them away to friends and neighbors.

Golden, oven-roasted King Edward potatoes

Last Sunday I roasted some garden-grown potatoes in the oven, to accompany a spit-roasted chicken. They were beautiful — golden and crispy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside. You can't ask for better than that.

Here's the chicken: a free-range chicken raised
on a farm near Orléans. I bought it fresh at
the abattoir (the processing plant) near Blois.

I think I'll be able to figure out how to store all these potatoes, so that we can continue enjoying them over the winter. Downstairs in the back of our utility room, we have a cellier — a pantry — with a dirt floor. It has no windows, so it's pitch dark in there. Maybe the potatoes will enjoy that environment and last for a while.

To go with chicken and potatoes, a dish of cooked Swiss chard
from the garden, with a sauce of cream and Dijon mustard.

The potatoes I planted are the King Edwards that Jean (A Very Grand Pressigny) and Nick brought us from England last April, all “chitted” — sprouted — and ready to go in the ground. They are mealy (floury) potatoes that are good oven-roasted. I imagine they'd be good French-fried, in a soup, or mashed — made into a puree.

Sunday dinner

I'll find that out today. We are making a dish called brandade de morue this morning. It's a specialty of the South of France, and it's rehydrated and desalted salt cod poached and flaked, and then mixed into mashed potatoes. You make it with a lot of garlic and olive oil, and a little cream or milk. More about that later.


  1. Mmm, brandade de morue; that sounds good !! The last time I made it, the recipe surprisingly also included a soft boiled egg and a generous tablespoon of sour cream. It was simply delicious. Bon appetit!

  2. Wow, those potatoes have done well!
    I think your cellar would be perfect for storing them. At home my parents kept them in a paper sack in the pantry where it is cool and dark. You can also "clamp" them, the traditional way of storing them in the ground. There is lots of info on the web about that.
    King Edwards are very popular in the UK. I now see why. Not only are they good for all the ways of cooking you have mentioned, but they are easy to grow as well.

  3. Fabulous looking food, Ken... YUMM! Those potatoes look soooo good.


  4. I hope you are going to roast some of those potatoes in duck fat..yes? A friend showed me how to melt the fat in the roasting pan in a hot oven, toss in flour (I was completely unconvinced), then bake in a hot oven. Unbelievable! Here are the details:

    Digging potatoes (taters, if you are here) is more fun than hunting eggs...

  5. Sounds like gourmet lutefisk (salt cod dish from Norway).
    The potatoes look excellent! We just planted a second crop of Russet Burbank.

  6. You guys must have some fantastically fertile soil in Saint-Aignan.

  7. Ken

    I told you about those spuds, man. Glad they worked out. I will be picking Russian banana fingerlings here in Illinois in a couple weeks. Great with olive oil, salt and pepper roasted and also make the best mashed potatoes you have ever eaten.


    Jeff from Naperville, IL

  8. Interesting article in the LA Times today about "Peking duck" and mandarine pancakes.

    I was wondering if you guys and CHM speak french or english to each others.

  9. Hi Ladybird, the brandade de morue turned out to be really good. I have pictures for later.

    Jean, I really wonder if I might get as many as 80 kg of potatoes. I'll be happy if I do. This weekend we are going to make frites out of some of the King Edwards.

    Ohio, yes, duck fat! Good idea.

    Hello georgie, I'll have to look up recipes for lutefisk to see if it is similar.

    Starman, our soil is not all that fertile, except the spot where I planted the potatoes. There used to be a compost pile on that plot. The rest of our soil is what they called "grapevine soil" -- it's hard clay with a lot of rocks mixed in.

    Hi Jeff, I read that you aren't supposed to plant potatoes in the same spot more than one year out of three. If that's NOT true, then I'll probably plant more and different potatoes next year. Are you the Jeff from the Chicago area that I knew many years ago in Paris?

    Nadège, thanks for the link to the Peking Duck article.

    Nous avons toujours parlé français ensemble, CHM et moi. Ça date de l'époque lointaine (1982-86) où nous étions collègues à Washington DC. Nous travaillions en français et faisions des traductions.

  10. We have grown and stored our own potatoes for around thirty years. Like Jean's parents I used to keep them in paper sacks but they became hard to find. For several years now I have used discarded boxes from the supermarket - the large shallow rectangular ones used for bananas, etc. I line them with newspaper to block out the light and put in two layers of potatoes with another newspaper between the layers and one on top. If you can stack two or three boxes on something like a plastic garden table in your shed (to prevent mouse attacks!)and cover them with an old towel or rug for the winter (to prevent frost) they should keep well. Perhaps you could try some in the shed and some in the cellar and see which works best? We wondered if the cellar might be a bit humid? We grow Desiree which was on your chart. We dug them up last September and they lasted in our shed until May.

    We had some of the new ones with your delicious recipe for chicken and apricots yesterday. I know this will be a favourite way of cooking chicken now. Many thanks!

  11. Thank you, Angela. I hadn't thought of keeping the potatoes out in the garden shed, but that is a good idea. I had thought of putting them in cardboard boxes, and I'll put them in layers of newspaper as you said, and cover them with some kind of towel or rug. That should work really well. What a lot of good suggestions!


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