It’s planting time again and since I added Growing Pumpkins to my “Done That” list last year, I decided it was time to move on to other adventures in agriculture. I’m going to be growing potatoes.
I have to admit that up until a few months ago, I knew absolutely nothing about potatoes, except that you don’t want to toss raw ones in your compost bin and that as French fries, they really dress up a burger. But my master gardener sister gave me one of her Ozette potatoes and I was smitten.
Ozette potatoes, at least the one I had, looked more like a hot dog. It was long and skinny and well, kind of funny-looking, and came complete with a history that captivated me even more than its unusual appearance.
The Ozette Indian tribe of the Pacific Northwest once lived on a little slice of land on the westernmost side of the Olympic Peninsula, which is still only accessible by water. They had quite a culture, including the ability to make wooden boxes out of a flat piece of wood without sawing anything. I saw an example of this at the Makah Cultural and Research Center in Neah Bay, Washington. My sister had worked for the US Public Health Service in Neah Bay for several years and was eager to see the new display about the Ozette people when we visited there last October. It seems the tiny coastal village was decimated around 1700 by a mud slide. The survivors paddled up the coast to Neah Bay and were eventually assimilated into the Makah tribe.
The town lay buried and ostensibly forgotten, until it was discovered that tidal erosion was gradually washing what remained of the settlement out into the Pacific. Thus began a massive 11 year project to remove the ancient artifacts. Water was pumped into the site as a means of uncovering the artifacts, as digging and other common means of excavating would have damaged them beyond repair. Some 55,000 objects were retrieved and are on display at the Makah museum. If you ever wander out to what is frequently referred to as the westernmost part of the contiguous United States, be sure to visit the museum. It’s well worth spending a half of a day, and its new Welcome Statues, some 30’ high, are delightful introductions to the small fishing community.
Ozette potatoes were introduced to the Northwest by explorers from Central and South America. There has been renewed interest in the tasty tubers in the Seattle area and elsewhere, so I feel myself honored that perhaps I can introduce them to our area. My sister adds to my collection of one potato by adding several more smaller seed potatoes.
How to grow them, though. I needed to find that out. Potatoes like lots of sun, which is in somewhat short supply on our property. Where can I dig a hole that doesn’t impact the septic system and which is out of the shade? As I mull this over, my sister comes to my rescue once again. There is, she e-mails me, such a thing as a potato bag. I go to the link and find that indeed there is—a large container that appears to be made of perhaps landscape cloth. Fill it with dirt and potatoes and plop in a patch of sunlight, water well, and voila! Spuds for the upcoming winter months. I order two of the bags. I figure I can use the other for either regular potatoes or maybe some squash vines. Although enticed by the availability of special pre-mixed soil, I draw the line. There’s something about paying for shipping dirt that just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.
As of this writing, my potato bags have not arrived, but rest assured I’ll be detailing my progress as the summer (if we ever get one) waxes and wanes. Happy growing, all you gardeners!