One big onion and some small potatoes

With the arrival of frosty temperatures, gardens are winding down. Oh there’s a bit more to do: nurse the late crops to the end, clean beds and prep for garlic planting, store the harvest, etc. But soon it’ll all be a memory of a hot, dry season.

I’ve been away on a family vacation to the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic. The hubby and I invited my mother, Martha Martin, to join us. Mom lives on Maui, surrounded by some nice beaches. So luring her on an ocean-oriented trip was a bit like that old saying about sending coals to Newcastle.

But travel offers plenty of neat things to see and do, so she came. Our road trip took us to the amazing tidal action at Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick, followed by a relaxing week of beach walking and cycling on Prince Edward Island.

Not everything in my garden back in North Gower, Ontario got picked while we were away. On returning I gazed with wonder (fright?) at what the zucchini wrought. For the umpteenth time I thought someone really needs to study it more. Harnessed as a bio-fuel, that growth monster could possibly make world energy shortages a thing of the past.

Of course, if mass alone is the goal – and never mind edibility – there’s a place to celebrate that quality too. Here is a fun item from the BBC on an English couple who broke a world record for heaviest onion: 18 pounds 1 ounce. Looking at the video, the bulb looks comedic. Like a prop for some movie about giants.

Speaking of prop vegetables, here is my mom in front of something called the Canadian Potato Museum in O’Leary, Prince Edward Island.

Plenty of poutine in this puppy!












Besides being very beautiful, PEI is sort of Canada’s Idaho, in terms of providing potatoes. (More on that here, from the PEI Potato board.)

Despite its small size PEI leads all provinces in potato production (growing about 26% of Canada’s crop) with Manitoba running second. Along with an intense summer tourism season, and fishing, potatoes are a big deal in PEI. (As anyone can see while exploring that island.)

Touring the museum, I gathered from my Mom’s comments that she had never grown or harvested potatoes before. I told her she had to have that pleasure and we’d do it upon our return. Here’s Mom with two kinds of fingerlings. She was as happy as a kid on an Easter egg hunt, and that’s rather what potato harvesting can feel like: fruit of the earth, la pomme de terre.

Martha Martin’s first potato harvest: fresh fingerlings for dinner!













As it happened, this spring was my first full growing season in a new yard and I’d put in several varieties of potatoes. My joints are getting creaky and I am acquainted with the word lazy. So I went looking for no-dig methods and tried wire bins and leaf mulch, as described in this blog post.

(Full disclosure, the permaculture advocate cited in the post happens to be my Aunt, Mary Zemach, my mom’s sister. Aunt Mary is a master gardener who runs an interesting permaculture demonstration garden at her home in Los Alamos, New Mexico.)

Obviously, Aunt Mary didn’t invent growing potatoes that way. Like gardeners throughout time, she’s tinkering and tweeking along the way. Just for fun, I planted most of my seed potatoes in the no-dig hoop bins and tossed a few more on the ground beside them, and mulched those with straw.

I haven’t harvested everything up yet, but the first two areas suggest that the bins were not any more productive in yield, just a simple way to maximize space with low effort. (My hoops were up against a cedar hedge, where the ground would be fairly full of hedge roots.)

Anyway, the little darlings were delicious.

Happy travels – and good gardening – to all.

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2 Comments on “One big onion and some small potatoes”

  1. trek says:

    Thanks for sharing this story!

  2. Ellen Rocco says:

    Digging potatoes is about the best garden “job” going. It’s still magical for me.

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