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Michael and I have a favorite saying that refers to how abundant something is in our lives: we call that usually temporary situation as being ‘rich’. For example, in August, we’re always ‘tomato rich’. In the fall, we’re usually ‘firewood rich’. Today, I am ‘potato rich’. We ran out of our homegrown potatoes from 2011 in January, (Note to self: Grow more this year!) so we bought a 50 lb bag at a local store for about $15.00. They weren’t ‘GRADE A’ or whatever perfect, similar sized potatoes are graded. But that was so much cheaper than the 10 lb bags we were seeing elsewhere for over $5.00 a bag, and since they keep so well when stored in the NE corner of our dirt floored basement-turned-root-cellar, we bought the bigger bag. We’re about a third of the way through that bag now, maybe more. But yesterday we found a 50 lb box of perfect, but odd sized potatoes at the discount grocery store for $8.99! So we bought that too. Then today I stopped at the Farm and Garden store and purchased our annual supply of seed potatoes for planting on St. Patrick’s Day, our traditional day to plant “IRISH” potatoes <wink> The price for all varieties of seed potatoes has been 50 cents a pound for many years, but this year they were 65 cents a pound, a 30% increase! When I inquired why, I was told that many potato crops were lost last year due to flooding, and that the Red Pontiac crop was a total loss. No denying it, our weather patterns are changing and crop failures will become more frequent as farmers and gardeners adjust to new normals. And no doubt about it, red potatoes will be pricier this year because of those failures.
Speaking of changing weather patterns… did you know that we here in NE TN are now considered part of Zone 7A, rather than the 6B we used to be? The USDA Hardiness Zones are based on the average minimum temperature for each zone. Things are warming up it seems. Even the USDA is recognizing that with this new map. http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/# Just sayin’…
Regardless of planting zones or dates, ‘taters are a mainstay for many in the world and for us, they’ll be an almost daily part of our diet until they’re gone. There are so many different ways to prepare them that we won’t tire of them. This week we’ve enjoyed Good Shepard’s Pie (thus called because a ‘good’ Shepard doesn’t eat his sheep!) with a 2″ layer of mashed potatoes on top, baked potatoes cooked in the hot coals of the woodstove, and tonight we enjoyed “Tex-Mex Potatoes”, a spicy main dish perfect for vegetarians, since it includes beans, corn, tomatoes, onions and salsa. Tomorrow we’ll have ‘Garden Potato Medley” which is another main dish that uses the abundance of kale we have growing in the greenhouse. (Did I mention we’re also kale rich right now?) And when the cold weather returns on Sunday, I plan to make a pot of potato soup. We will have eaten a variety of delicious, healthy meals this week for just a few dollars, and we’ll still have lots of ‘taters left when we return from our upcoming trip to California. Those will keep with no problems until our own homegrown ones are harvested. The secret to long term potato storage seems to be dark, cool and single layers. Grape boxes are perfect storage boxes for them, just ask someone in the produce department at your favorite grocery store for one-or ten-if you’re planning on becoming ‘potato rich’ too!
Here’s the point of all this ‘tater talk’: Food is one of the few areas in my life that I have control over. Being open to substitutions and bulk buys, eating seasonal, local foods, eating my way through abundance, doing without when things are scarce and eliminating food waste keeps my food bills low and encourages me to find new ways to use healthy, basic foods throughout the year. Here’s a recipe you might enjoy:
Boxty (Irish Potato Griddle Cakes)- a good use for leftover mashed potatoes
1/2 pound raw potato
1/2 pound cooked mashed potato
1/2 pound plain flour
Milk (as needed, see directions)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Grate raw potatoes and mix with the cooked mashed potatoes. Add salt, pepper, onion and flour. Beat egg and add to mixture with just enough milk to make a batter that will drop from a spoon.
Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a hot griddle or frying pan. Cook over a moderate heat for 3-4 minutes on each side.
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