Sunday, July 18, 2010

Digging for Gold, or at Least Potatoes

The July heat is taking its toll on the garden, as well as the gardeners. It’s all about upkeep now: weeding, redirecting errant vines, and of course, harvesting. We try to take advantage of cool, early morning temperatures.

Early morning is the best time to harvest herbs. They’ve had a respite from the heat and an early-morning drink of dew, making their leaves plump and aromatic. Use them as quickly as possible so they don’t wilt or turn brown. You can also dry them by hanging them upside down in a cool, dark place. We use the basement in summer and garage in winter.  Alternately, you may dry them on a mesh rack in the oven at 150 degrees for about two hours. Dried herbs keep well in the freezer.

Early morning is also a great time to pick ripe vegetables. Get them before the birds notice them or they begin to split in the sun. We like to pick our tomatoes after breakfast and let them sit in the window to round out their flavor before dinner.

Potatoes our are favorite crop, at least when it comes time to harvest. Dig gently down the sides of the grow bag or outer edges of in-ground plants to sneak the first batch, and leave the rest for later. Never eat a green potato, though. Unripe potatoes can make you very, very ill.

Our recent meat and potatoes dinner was as local as they come. We took advantage of a rainy morning to visit lovely little Del Ray, VA.  Del Ray is home to an array of boutique shops, a yoga studio or two, two family-friendly cafe’s, and some of the best cheese and meat around. After breakfast at St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub, we purchased Kobe beef at Let’s Meat on the Avenue, a selection of cheeses from Cheestique, and fresh peaches and corn from the year-round, weather-proof farmer’s market.

We dug our own Princess La Ratte fingerling potatoes before dinner (the second best time to harvest), as well as some vigorous kale. Nothing beats an all-American, meat and potatoes dinner. Nice grill marks, Papa!

Recipe: Potatoes La Ratte with Buttered Chives


  1. about 42 baby potatoes
  2. handful of freshly clipped chives
  3. 1 T butter
  4. salt and pepper to taste


  1. Fill a 2-quart sauce pan with potatoes and water to cover
  2. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil
  3. Boil for about 10 minutes, until potatoes are just tender
  4. Drain the potatoes in a colander
  5. Place them in a large bowl, and gently mash with a fork. They should remain mostly intact, unlike smooth, mashed potatoes. 
  6. Add the butter and gently press it into the potatoes.
  7. Dice the chives and stir them into the mixture
  8. Serve warm

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