Monday, 5 May 2008

They Came from Underground!

spudsLook what came out of the ground! That's a teaspoon there, for size. I dug these up yesterday from my almost non-existent veggie garden. That's about half my crop. Let me tell you how I grew them. It was hard work, I tell you...

1. Find sprouting potatoes in the cupboard.
2. On a whim, chuck into a spare patch of garden and cover with dirt and mulch.
3. Ignore for 5 months. Water? Well, it did rain a few times.
4. When plants fall over and look like they're dying, scrabble around in the dirt under them and extract potatoes.

I can't believe how simple that was, and how satisfying. Next year I'm going to do it again, but I think I'll pay more attention to keeping them covered. Remember, teh green wunz r poyzon.

My garden is much too small and shady for serious veggie gardening, so mostly I just grow herbs. I've tried popping some rainbow chard in where the spuds were, but I'm not very optimistic about it surviving my random neglect. I fantasise about doing better, but I don't really have the time.

I've recently read Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I recommend it highly. It's a fascinating account of a year that she and her family spent on a farm in Virginia, close to where Kingsolver grew up. They grew as much of their own food as possible, including meat, and bought everything else from local growers. It's full of fascinating anecdotes, and recipes, and odd tidbits of fact about agricultural practices, ancient and modern. I'm quite impressed by it - and it has helped increase my devotion to the farmers' market. Why waste scarce resources shipping food all round the world, when there's perfectly good seasonal eating right here, right now? In Australia, we probably don't have the quality of land to enable the one-hour transport limit that the Kingsolver family imposed on themselves, but I am becoming ever more fussy about buying Australian. And for stuff we can't get locally - well, go without, or choose fair trade if possible. I don't think we grow cocoa in Australia, but we do produce some good coffee. Spices are small and relatively cheap to ship; but I don't want expensive American cherries in the middle of winter.

I'll tell one potato related anecdote: early in the year, Barbara announced to a food-loving friend that "the potatoes are up!' She was met with puzzlement. "Exactly what part of a potato comes up?", asked the friend.

I wonder if we Australians have such a great disconnect. Does everyone still know that a potato is a part of a plant? It's an ordinary looking low plant, with leaves, flowers and a small tomato-like fruit (poison, do not eat fruit!). The potatoes grow underground, storing up starch to enable the plant to survive another year - until we heartlessly rob it of its labours and fling its corpse to the compost heap to rot. And meat is dead animals, and eggs come out of a chook's bum.


infoaddict said...

I do know people (always adults) who are a bit twitchy about holding a freshly-laid egg, still with that very slight stickiness from being laid, and still chook body-temperature. It makes people realise that it comes out of the same hole that the poo comes out of, and "ewww" factor kicks in.

Once they're cold, though, it's ok.

Kids, of course, LOVE the warm eggs. I scrambled freshly-laid, still-warm eggs for my second cousin (about 7 years old) recently, and she just loved how personal it all was ... she picked up the egg, handed it me, watched it being cooked, and got it back on a plate. I doubt the egg dropped more than a few degrees during the whole exercise.

I can't do that all the time; mostly I have to haul the eggs out of the fridge, and they can be up to a week old (!!! the horror). Even still; despite the frustrations of chook-ownership (mine seem to die a lot), I can't give them up. It's just so intimate, in a way ... feed the chook and get its eggs back. Food "miles" measured in metres.

baby~amore' said...

I don't know what a potato palnt loks like and how do you bury the sprouting ones ?

I must check good ol' Google.

Your blog looks interesting I will be back for a better look.

I am first time visitor.