Almost time to start planting potatoes

img_1796-2It’s almost time for that first planting of the season. I know I’m excited to get out and dig in my garden.

Potatoes are traditionally planted on St. Patrick’s Day, a date that I try to keep close to and seems to work.

I’ve tried red potatoes and yukon gold over the years. I’ve always had much better luck with red, getting as much as three times more red potatoes as yellow. I still like the Yukon Gold, so I plant a few, but I use most of my space for a couple of varieties of red potato, although I can’t really tell the difference in taste or quantity of the different ones.

Another thing I’ve found beneficial is to plant the potatoes in a raised bed. That makes it easier to mound the dirt up around them as they grow and also provides looser soil for growing. I have gotten a bigger harvest since I moved my potatoes to one of my raised beds.

If you’re like me, you can’t get too many potatoes. While you can freeze and dehydrate some, they store pretty well in a cool, dark place. I keep mine in a wooden box that has slats on the side so they get some air circulation. I had some from last year still in a box this winter. They had started sprouting, but it wasn’t a waste. I planted them in my greenhouse and they are now growing. Hopefully they produce a lot of potatoes.

With an unlimited supply of potatoes, at least for a while, there are a large number of things you can do with them.

I enjoy making homemade potato chips. I found a microwave dish once for cooking them and it works great. The benefit is you can season them however you want, such as simply with salt, or with some dried herbs or seasonings. You can get creative.

Another option is baked French fries; to do this just toss with olive oil and seasoning then bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, turning half way through.

Of course, you can mash them or bake them as well.

I also love to make  homemade potato soup.

There are so many ways to enjoy potatoes. What’s your favorite one?

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Homemade Potato Soup
6 large potatoes
5 cups chicken broth
3 T. butter
1 cup milk
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 onion
1 tsp. garlic powder

Chop potatoes, drizzle with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees. Chop onion and cook in olive oil until soft. Add broth, garlic powder, salt and peper. Add buttler then potatoes and parsley. Bring to boil, then simmer 20 minutes. Stir in milk and serve
Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at and some will be featured in upcoming columns.


Cooking with cilantro, corriander


Believe it or not, I still have a little bit of cilantro hanging on in my garden. My other herbs have given up and I even chopped down my droopy sage this past weekend so I can cover the herb bed with hay before it drops into the teens later this week.
As I was trimming the sage and chives back, I noticed some green leaves still filling the cilantro area of the raised bed. I couldn’t believe it. We’ve had several frosts already. Some of the leaves are looking a little brown but not all, which I was excited about.

Cilantro is an herb with a very bold taste, that I can only describe as fresh and summery. It adds so much to any dish in which it is used.

One obvious use for cilantro is in salsa. Whether making fresh or using canned salsa, the fresh cilantro adds a burst of flavor. Chopping up a little fresh cilantro and adding it to a jar of salsa before serving is a nice addition.

Another recipe recently shared with me by Janell Jessup was for Mexican Pot Roast. It’s a delicious and unique way to eat pot roast, and a great way to incorporate cilantro into a meal. I used dried cilantro, but I think fresh would be best if you have it available. Unlike all other herbs, cilantro seems to lose some flavor when dried, causing me to use a large amount of dried cilantro to get enough flavor – at least for me.

Another option for cilantro is to let the plants go to seed, then collect those and let them hang in a paper bag until the seeds dry and start to fall off. This produces coriander, which also has a cilantro-like flavor and stores well. Just grind it up and add it to your recipe.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Mexican Pork Roast

Chopped peppers and onions (you can use the frozen combo package from Dillons or whatever you have frozen from your garden)
1 pork roast (about 3 pounds)
1 16 oz. jar salsa
1 bunch of cilantro

Layer onions and peppers on bottom of slow cooker. Set roast on top. Top roast with salsa and chopped cilantro. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours. When the roast is fall-apart tender, remove it, shred and mix back into the salsa, peppers and onions. Serve over Mexican rice or in a tortilla with cheese and sour cream, top with toppings of your choice, ie: shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, black onions, etc.
~ recipe submitted by Janell Jessup

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at and some will be featured in upcoming columns.