Potatoes and sunflowers

Lovely rain fell last night, and this morning.

Up to now we’ve had hot August weather, and I’ve spent a lot of time dragging hoses around and watering plants. Late in the day you can kind of play with the sunlight in the spray…

watering the garden

But enough playing in the water–this is a grown-up gardening blog sometimes.

There was a second basil harvest:

bowl of basilLots of basil sauce made and frozen for winter, from a blend of leaves, garlic and olive oil. And the plants continue producing in the shelter of the greenhouse which is the only place I can get them to happily grow.

My favorite garden event has been the sunflowers. Finally!

three sunflowers

I grew about eight tall plants. They are the sort for cutting, not seeds, although the honeybees work them over anyway. I simply love the blooms in a vase–the most cheerful flower anywhere– and they last so long you can almost pretend they won’t die, just like we do with people.

Potato plants die.

dead vines

It became time to be strong and face the outcome.

My terrier assistant stood by with shovel and trowel and pruning shears.

late summer Max

I cut back all the vines and leaves to get to the possibly vast harvest.

pots to dig
Then really I just tipped a pot up into the daisy wheelbarrow.

This was an exciting moment. I hesitated. Tiny useless potatoes? No potatoes? Millions of potatoes? Max sounded a trumpet, and in the distant hills I heard a roll of thunder…

pot tipped

I pried the clump of soil apart like a muffin.

potato layer

The filling was nice-sized potatoes, growing in a layer, all at the same level, still lightly attached to the plants’ roots. Muffin potato stratum–not like jam but still.

potatoes on rootsFrom the four pots I harvested maybe 10-15 pounds of potatoes. I salvaged the compost they grew in, and gave it to a new flower bed. (Growing potatoes makes growing flowers seem extraordinarily pleasing.)

soil and potatoesOverall it was an interesting experiment.

I haven’t cooked any of these potatoes yet but, unless they are epic in taste, I shall stash the experience in my memory rooms, at the end of a corridor in probably a little closet, where I can go find it and look at it now and then– through all the coming summers when I do not cultivate potatoes. Because the thrill is gone, as they say. I’d like to seriously try bush green beans though.

Always, I will grow sunflowers.

sunflower bouquet

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About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in actual plants, vegetable garden and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Potatoes and sunflowers

  1. Lyn says:

    I’m glad you got some potatoes, even though the experience obviously was less than epic. I think you were missing the essential piece of equipment when harvesting spuds – a small, wide-eyed child who has been convinced they are going to dig up treasure. Terriers, by comparison, are much too cynical to be taken in. Your post title reminded me of a tv show my children loved to watch when they were small – Potatoes and Dragons. I don’t know if it ever aired in the States, but it was so cute – a king, a princess, a wizard, a jester and lots of kinights are all potatoes. The king is trying to rid the kingdom of a fire-breathing dragon, so he keeps sending potato knights to defeat it (as you can imagine, this never ends well for the knights). The dragon has nothing against the king, but has a pathological hatred of crowns, so fries the king to a crisp every time they meet. This has nothing to do with your post, but it did bring back happy memories. Your sunflowers are lovely.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Lyn
      No I have never heard of Potatoes and Dragons, but I can imagine a dragon being useful in making chips from potatoes so I see the challenge the king was facing… It sounds like a wonderful series and I’m sorry I never met up with it, also glad to have reminded you. I hate crowns too, especially from dentists.

  2. Susan says:

    What a cliffhanger. I was on the edge of my seat. Now, what is this about bush beans?

  3. Your sunflowers are beautiful. I will find wild sunflowers growing in my yard on occasion. I’m sure their GPS gets out of whack and they end up in my yard by mistake. I can just hear all of the sunflower chat, “Where the heck are we? I told you a map would be more reliable. You and your gadgets. Oh. My. God. Is that a graveyard?!”

    As for bush beans, they are one of my favorite things to grow. They grow really well here and I always wish that I had planted more. Maybe next summer you’ll try a few. They’re easy.

    • linniew says:

      Oh ‘berta, EASY sounds very good, secuctive even. But: wild sunflowers? I love the sound of that! Actually I have the same trouble with my iphone “maps” feature. It’s a wonder I’m not in your yard too.

  4. Rachelle says:

    A tad light, I would agree. When my nephews, The Gardening Twins, were two and a half, I still remember their anticipation (they still get excited at four!) when I dug up the first Red Norlands. “Apples!!!” they screamed in unison.

    Now of course, they know they are potatoes, and the debate is whether we should dig the pink ones, the blue ones, or the yellow ones.

    Small children are a must at a potato digging! I’m glad Max was there, however, to assist! (You never know what may have claimed your potato baskets as home court.)

    I suggest you boil some of those nice red potatoes ASAP, and THEN decide never again…or not.

    I am always interested in good ways to store basil. Please share the basil, olive oil, and garlic recipe!

    • linniew says:

      Hi there Rachelle!
      I love little kids. Apples indeed. Max is a kind of small fuzzy child and is always on hand, so helpful. Okay I will eat and then decide re the future potato efforts. As far as the basil goes, I basically make basil pesto without pine nuts or Parmesan. Since my dear-beloved-difficult-but-very-cute-gay-friend Alberto pointed out that I should not call it “pesto” without the pine nuts and cheese, well of course I call it not-pesto but it is basically that. I just pour some olive oil into the blender, add salt and pepper and several garlic pieces (many), then feed in the basil leaves. When the blender (an old one) gets slow and bored I add more oil and then more leaves. I freeze this sauce in about 2/3 cups to a jar for use with pasta (usually made with chicken, mushrooms, onions, peppers…) or as a pizza sauce in Deep Winter. So good. I don’t think it’s possible to make it badly– I know someone who adds fresh parsley to the mix. Much easier than pickles I think!

      • Rachelle says:

        Deep Winter…definitely what we have here. Pizza is my version of fast food, when I don’t make the crust from scratch and buy those crusts two to a pack. I have quite a bit of Italian flat-leaf parsley this year so maybe that is the way I will go with it and the basil. I, too, have an old blender and am fully operational with the “slow and bored” setting.

        Our spring was so late this year, cucumbers are finally coming in and potatoes are just getting ready to dig.

        This gherkin recipe is easy, but you should only use cucumbers about 1/2″ in diameter and up to 2 1/2″ long. Wash, prick them with a fork, place them in a bowl overnight with a coarse sea salt, pickling salt, or Kosher salt. Ratio of cucumbers to salt is 3 pounds of cukes to a cup of salt. (As long as you keep the ratios close you can do just a couple jars, if you choose.)

        Drain the cukes. Immerse them in a 1:1 ratio 5% vinegar and water. Drain the gherkins immediately and pat dry. Pack them into a sterilized half-pint or pint jars. (I prefer the smaller.) Into each jar layer in some pearl onions (I have used ring slices of small red onions or smaller onions cut in narrow wedges. Green spring onions would be fun, too.) Also add one bay leaf, a tarragon sprig, a dried hot chili, about 1/8 teaspoon of each of these: allspice berries, black peppercorns, white peppercorns. I have used a bit of garlic and dried tarragon, but the dried tarragon is not as esthetically pleasing.

        Top off with 5% vinegar, place lid and ring on jar. Label and date. Place in a dark place and wait six weeks before eating. These gherkins are good at least a year.

        This recipe doesn’t call for pressure canning or a hot water bath, so it’s one step up from frigerator pickles, but still very easy.

        • linniew says:

          Thanks Rachelle. My cucumbers are winding down but I will keep this recipe in mind for next year. You are very much a cook! I make some kind of pizza about once a week too, lately with fresh sliced tomatoes and basil for the sauce. I’ve made the dough so much that it seems quick and easy. Glad I’m not the only one with a geriatric blender.

          • Rachelle says:

            Oh, the joys of a misspent youth…you buy a blender to make margaritas and it is there for you to puree baby food, make aioli, hollandaise sauce, and smoothies! If I had realized it would last so long I would have bought the top of the line Oster of the time! Same for my coffee grinder. Nobody told me my blender would last so much longer than those incredible alligator heels!

  5. Alberto says:

    Let me get this clear: what do you mean with bush green beans? Maybe french beans? Because they shall be pretty easy to grow, my dad grows a lot of them in different varieties.

    Anyway I am so happy for your potatoes experience, and they are so red, they shall be the perfect variety to make gnocchi (look it up) that require dry, sandy flashed potatoes.
    Anyway I’m sure they will taste delightful, as far as they’re own-grown!

    But really I am very envious of your basil here, I had a very bad season with it this year, and now it wants to flowers and stems are tough, not tender and fresh like yours…
    I really feel like planting some sunflowers too next year, they look so cheerful! Do they need a lot of watering?

  6. linniew says:

    When you write ‘French beans’ I think of French-cut green beans… The bush beans I mentioned are just like climbing green beans only they don’t climb. I’ve grown the climbing ones but not very seriously– often the deer manage to break in just in time to eat them all. I have a friend who, like your dad, gets great harvests from the bush variety.

    I’ve never made gnocchi but it would be fun to try. I wonder about using my potatoes though–most gnocchi recipes here call for the brown russet (baking) potatoes…

    My basil always goes badly if grown outside, dry and tough. I keep it in pots in the greenhouse where the weather is warm and perfect. It is very dependable grown in such luxury. I planted the sunflowers near the cucumbers and watered them often. Once they wilted but recovered with a drink. I see them blooming neglected in ditches and gravel though so I guess mine are just spoiled.

    • Alberto says:

      In fact I just assumed that your red skinned potatoes were good for baking, you need dry and mealy flesh to make gnocchi without making a mess. And don’t forget a hint of grappa on the mix!
      I wouldn’t make gnocchi for the first time with own laboriously grown potatoes, though, you’d risk a double disappointment here. You’d still have a barely full bottle of grappa though…

  7. kininvie says:

    There – I knew you would have potatoes. And sunflowers too, for once – a double triumph. I can’t think what you are moaning about.

    • linniew says:

      I did not moan. At all. The potatoes are pretty and the sunflowers meet my every expectation. You, on the other hand, have been rather missing. How is Fluffy, and is she a rooster? Did the wisteria survive your threats? Written any mysteries lately?

      • kininvie says:

        I’m back, as you may have seen. Fluffy’s sex is still indeterminate. There will be updates.

        • linniew says:

          Good to have you back and especially to know that you are on the job with the chicken sex thing K. I know it’s rather esoteric and takes time but let me know immediately when there is news–much more exciting than wallpaper paste, which I’ve had to wash out of my hair for two days in a row now. But modern wallpaper paste doesn’t glue as well as it used to don’t you find? And don’t you love the autumn? I KNOW you are outside every day now, burning up things…

  8. I’m a very un-grown up blogger and I love the water picture. We saved sunflower heads once as seed-offerings for the birds . . . who turned their beaks up at them so we were left with mouldering brown blobs.

    • linniew says:

      Being grown-up is certainly overrated… And Esther thank you so much for relieving my sunflower-seeds-for-the-birds guilt. I’ll just buy a bag of birdseed like usual.

  9. Katie says:

    Happy Potato Day Linnie!
    Your potato story was like an adorable old fashioned bump and grind strip tease, one layer at a time. With sunflowers, I’ve never figured out just who is growing who. You will now always have glorious sunflowers, just never where you want them to be. I sure love that cute little peachy glad in the vase. Did you grow it?

    • linniew says:

      Hi ya Katie!
      Yes I have now even roasted some of those potatoes, sliced and tossed with olive oil and spices, very nice and sort of sweet. I will enjoy them all. I don’t grow glads at all but my friend Dennis is generous with his huge assortment. I love them with the sunflowers. And I am devoted to sunflowers now. The ones I grew don’t make seeds, but I may toss some seeds around outside anyway…

  10. Fay says:

    I loved hearing about the tatties. And the water photo and the beautiful sunflowers and that you’ve had it hot.

    I’ve been in hibernation – winter started early this year. 🙂 I have much blogging to read back on!

    My friend grew sunflowers this year, you’ll excuse her, she’s new to growing on our windy rock.

    Sadly a few days ago they were at 45 degrees (in an apt 45MPH wind) – clever things sunflowers, they know when to bend.

    The terrier, the trumpet and the tatties – a great title 🙂

    Much appreciation of your putting my blog (s) on your lovely list. Thank you.

    Will wait to hear about beans…………..

    • linniew says:

      Dear busy Fay,
      Lovely to hear from you and Max sends a loud trumpeting of joy to your Cairns! Yes wind would be hard on sunflowers, but they are so worth protecting–they make me feel happy and hopeful and what could be botanically better than that? I am excited for autumn and rain, odd as that sounds from a gardener. I think of you often and hope all is well with you in every corner and particle of your life.

      • Fay says:

        I love Autumn Linnie so I’m with you on that but not the rain. I’ll leave that with you. Busy indeed is really just the best tag for procrastination and troublesome terriers 🙂

        Who’d have known NO garden (at the wee cottage) would mean that all you do is walk the pesky hounds! I’m so looking forward to moving next spring and letting them rampage about the ‘soon to be found plots’.

        All particles and corners are fabulous over this side of the pond, the cairns are due haircuts and wondered if Max could shelter them until their safe.

        Sunflowers – so many hundreds of beautiful flowers in a gorgeous head – what’s not to love!

        • linniew says:

          You are so brave to have two terriers. But they are looking after you, keeping you on their exercise program. Max hides from bathtime so advises the cairns to find secret spots to wait out the haircut threat, and that under the desk is good. Fay I hope you have a sunny autumn!

  11. b-a-g says:

    Linnie – Sunflowers suit you very well (though I have to say that last one is rather showing off amongst the gladioli). The potatoes were a success – right?

    • linniew says:

      Yes, I think the potatoes WERE a success. But they are a lot of work and not so fun as fresh salad greens, tomatoes– or sunflowers! Also, we have limited water, and the pots of potatoes required a lot of watering to prevent wilt. Which is all part of my loss of thrill.

      I loved your intrepid reference to the muliple blooms as gladioli. I looked up pluralizing the word and found several choices (gladioluses, gladiolas…) so I cheated and just wrote ‘glads’– but ‘gladioli’ was my favorite of the plural options. Next time I will go with that, since you blazed the trail for me b-a-g.

  12. b-a-g says:

    Indeed, I like to stick my neck out when it comes to referencing latinised plurals of botanicals.

  13. Alistair says:

    Hi Linnie. i5 pounds of potatoes! thats one pound more than a stone, sounds good enough to me. Dragging hose pipes around can be a pain, like the picture you captured though.

  14. Hi dear friend. Sorry I’ve been away so long. I think you have a very nice potato harvest, but like you, I grew them once and when the thrill was gone, so was the potato-growing exercise. The sunflowers are stunning! And Max is exceedingly handsome as always.

    That rain was quite the anomaly. I had a river in one of my new garden beds that, thankfully was still only soil. It took over an hour to relocate the soil (sans gravel) out of the gravel pathway back to where it belonged. But even now, two weeks later, the soil throughout my garden is moist and easily workable. Still, I’m not ready for fall. I want July back. 🙂

    • linniew says:

      Hi Gracie!
      I think we’ve all been sort of away some. (Oddly I find I am away a lot, even when I’m home.) You can have July back if I can skip August next time–way too hot and dry. But already the grass is greening so there is hope. Do you think we might get a little snow this year? I really miss snow.

  15. I was wondering where you had been, harvesting obviously and not blogging. I had the exact same experience growing potatoes every single time I tried them only your harvest was vast compared to mine. I keep thinking how hard can it be to grow a few potatoes. The answer is impossible for me.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Carolyn
      We are enjoying cooking with the potatoes, but what a lot of work. I don’t see a noticeable difference in taste from the ones I usually buy. In future I will save my potato-gardening energy and recycle it to maybe multiple plantings of various sunflowers.

  16. susan troccolo says:

    Well, your name (women who run with delphiniums) won me over! I hooted and hollared! (My spellcheck is having a fit–too bad.) I am a non-fiction writer (self-published) with a Border Collie who assists and I just subscribed. This will be fun.

    • linniew says:

      I heartily welcome you Susie! I just visited your amazing blog, which I will add to my recommended list. Lovely to find yet another unique spirit blossoming (and gardening) in dear Portlandia! Max sends a wag to that Border Collie of yours…

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