Potato’s first kicks

The potato plants are flourishing, and while I have wondered what’s going on underground, I would have been content to wait until the minimum growing period (70 days) had passed. But a member of my potato audience (i.e., a regular passer-by) suggested I have a look. “You might have some — whaddya call them? — new potatoes under there.” She claimed to have a farmer brother in Wisconsin and was therefore a bit of an authority on potato matters.

Persuaded, I enlisted the documentary skills of one of my staff photographers, put on some gloves, and grabbed the fork-like cultivator. Gingerly I began digging.

I clawed deeper. The only word for how I felt was expectant. Something, I hoped, had been growing invisibly for weeks, and I was eager for a sign, a fetal kick of sorts. Clump after clump of dirt rolled under the tines. All I saw was dirt and those thready roots.

No longer content to let sleeping potatoes lie, I tugged up the bushy plant itself, wondering if this would drop a little spud or two at my feet. Hmmm, no.

I went back in, like an archaeologist, easing the dirt out of the cavity, trying to feel for lumps I couldn’t see.

So suddenly that I caught my breath, a red potato rolled into view. Oh, the feeling! Here was evidence. Potato plants really do yield potatoes, and I had arranged the conditions (soil, water, sunny spot, fish meal) under which food — life sustainer! — could grow. A little sign of more to come.

I only dug the one, and then I cleaned, boiled, and ate it — floury, delicious, and mine.


Photographer: Lydia Guterman

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