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The Last Windrow: Benefits of homegrown potatoes

I'll be digging my potatoes this week. The killing frost of last Friday night put the end to any further growing in our garden. It's time to dig the spuds.

I'll be digging my potatoes this week. The killing frost of last Friday night put the end to any further growing in our garden. It's time to dig the spuds.

Some folks might laugh at why I plant potatoes. Why, they say, would anyone want to go to the trouble of putting in a crop of russets, reds or Yukon golds when you can easily buy them in any grocery store? And, except for certain times of the year, potatoes are not really a very high price item.

Well, I'm here to tell you that there are many reasons to plant potatoes, and the tuber has more uses than just being cut into French fries. I come from a long line of potato growers. My great-granddad, granddad and Dad all planted potatoes on our Iowa farm. There was no debate about putting a crop in the ground when you looked at the hungry mouths to feed around the kitchen table. A table void of baked, boiled or fried potatoes would have been seen as a tragedy.

We found uses other than eating as well. Sometimes we'd find a potato carved to fit as a plug into the bathtub or kitchen sink drain. I once found a potato stuck to the top of a tractor exhaust pipe to keep the water out.

We used a cut potato to remove a broken light bulb from a socket. Sometimes we used the big spuds as a doorstop or to keep a door open. I found a potato covering the end of the sharp tines of a pitchfork more than once.

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I never tried it, but someone told me that you could actually use a potato for a fishing bobber, but they floated low in the water. I never tried that use.

Both of our farm caves had potato storage in the rear of those holes in the ground. The potato area was bare ground, not covered by cement. The cool, year-around temperatures allowed the potatoes to "keep" and they didn't sprout until the spring following the fall when they were deposited in the cave.

We had a potato plow on our farm. It was an unusual looking implement with its upturned, shovel-like blade and long, thin rods extending out from the rear and two long wooden handles. It had been pulled by horses in its early days, but we pulled it with the WD Allis Chalmers. Once placed in the earth, potatoes magically sprung to the surface to be picked up by family following the plow.

I dig my current crop manually with a potato fork. I sure do miss that plow. It's the one item I wish we would have brought to Minnesota with us. I could use it.

So, I'll be on my knees this week. Not praying, but prying spuds from their sandy resting place. They'll go down into my father-in-law's fall-out shelter to be used through the winter and into next spring.

Maybe not as handy as buying them at the store, but I know they're there and I know my wife and I raised them. There's a certain feeling of security in knowing that.

And, chowing down on a fried, golden Yukon gold potato in the middle of January - well, you just can't beat it!

See you next time. Okay?

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