Potatoes and rye bread are what kept us Finns alive for centuries. That is why we all have a bit (or a lot!) of dirt under nails. Many families still grow potatoes, maybe not for the whole year need as in the history, but at least for the short summer period.
The season start of new potatoes is an expected day for any Finn. New potatoes are boiled with their skins and served with butter, dill and pinch of salt. Accompanied by few pieces of herring and a light salad, the point is to highlight the sweet taste of this starch-rich vegetable, sometimes as small as a quail egg.
For any aspiring potato farmer out there, I would like to offer my grandparents’ instructions on how to grow potatoes.
- In early April, go to the store and buy seed potatoes. You might not believe this, but you can make seed potatoes from the regular, unprocessed, soil potatoes of the local supermarket. Pick nice, big egg-sized potatoes; they are perfect for the job!
- Put the potatoes in a sunny place at home for month to seed. You don’t have to do anything to them, just watch them push out sprouts.
- In early May, plant them to the ground in a line. The ground must have at least 30 cm of soil, not just rocks or clay. Shovel about 20 cm deep hole and put one seed potato in it. Shovel the next hole about 20 cm apart from the previous. Cover the potatoes up with soil. If you do several lines, do a 50 cm spacing between them.
- If there is a danger of night frost (and in Finland there always is), cover the patch with a farming veil.
- Potatoes are very easy to grow. You do not need to water or weed them. As they grow, you can add soil on top of the line to give extra strength to the potatoes. You take this soil from the in-between spacing of the lines.
- In 6-7 weeks, you can celebrate new potatoes!
- Potato is a “dig when you need it”-plant. It just keeps on growing and making new baby potatoes during summer. Potatoes are nicely safe inside the soil and must be harvested only in late autumn. In the cellar, they last months.