Cautiously Ecstatic

Way back when at the beginning of the year, I wrote a post about pre-nuclear potatoes, the latest thing in spuds.  These things, at least by name alone, seemed potent, exotic, perhaps even dangerous.  I was hooked, if not only by the name then by the promise of huge, mutant-like yields (without radioactive exposure!).  I got on the phone the day I read about them in the Irish Eyes potato catalog and ordered up four small bags, about 15 seed potatoes per bag, to the tune of $1/seed potato.  After waiting for a few weeks for the potatoes to come, I finally received a box with four small bags, inside of which were even smaller-looking seed potatoes, pathetically small, in fact.  My dreams of something for nothing (which probably motivates the nuclear energy enthusiasts, as well) fizzled, and I feared I had been led astray by catalog hype.  Oh, well, nothing to do but plant them and wait and see.

There’s 70 plus spuds here (count ’em), all coming from one initial seed potato.

Well, didn’t those little taters prove themselves worthy of the hype…at least a couple of bags of them at the Noble Rot… which is why I’m still just cautiously ecstatic versus totally rippin’ ecstatic.  So I planted 4 of the Austrian Crescent fingerlings in four felt potting bags at the Rot, adding soil to the bag as the potatoes grew.  These bags are great for growing, but they do have the downside that if they are not regularly watered, they will dry much faster than a regular container.  I say that to show that the bags might not be the ideal test for these potatoes’ productivity.  Still, for the bags I harvested, I got a 70-fold yield on my initial investment.  Yes, that’s right, I put in one smallish seed potato and I got back 70 or more fingerlings per plant, all of which were larger than the initial seed and perfectly acceptable on any gourmet plate.  There were also a few other that were too small to cook, but these will serve as next year’s seed, so they’re useful in their own way.  The whole idea behind pre-nuc potatoes is that they are generations ahead of standard seed potatoes, so I’m imagining I can plant and save seed from these guys for at least 5 years before I start to notice a decline (guess I just set myself up for 5 more years of blog postings on this topic).
 To really give these babies a thorough test run, I also planted other pre-nuc varieties in the traditional way at my school garden, and I am still waiting to harvest those.  That soil-based planting will give me a fuller picture of what’s really going on, but for now I’m at near meltdown excitement over the potential of these guys.  Milton Friedman may have been wrong;  there may be such a thing as a free lunch, but you just have to understand that to be a lunch plate composed entirely of pre-nuclear potatoes!