Tuesday, June 4, 2013

NaBloPoMo: The Story of a Potato, and White Beans with Cabbage and Potatoes

A few weeks ago, I noticed that the potato which had been living in the bowl on my counter had started to sprout.  At first, I was annoyed.  Another potato, wasted.  I pride myself on not wasting produce.  I plan meals, I buy what we need.  And I don't usually buy extra potatoes.  Because I don't even really like them all that much.  Which my husband thinks is akin to blasphemy.

But then, I wondered.  What would happen if I just let it grow?  It would be fun for the kids to watch, at least.

So I did a little research on the internet, poked some toothpicks into the side of it, put it in a glass that I refilled with water when I remembered to do so (which was probably less regularly than it deserved), and put it in a sometimes-sunny window.

At first, it grew slowly, trying to figure out which way to send shoots, and which way to send leaves.  But one morning I woke up and there were stalks.  And then, real leaves.

I should have planted it by now.  It could make me more potatoes this summer.  And (though I think I see one tiny little red potato growing already in the bottom of the cup) if I really want it to be healthy, it needs more than water and sun.  It needs soil.

But I've grown attached to my awkward-looking experiment, and I worry about what will happen when I change the equilibrium I've created. What if I break off these pieces, and they die?  What do I really know about potato farming, anyway?

When you try to root something, it's always a gamble.  I remember my father breaking off little shoots of plants he'd find everywhere, and putting them in a magical (and probably toxic) substance called "Root Tone," where they would transform seemingly overnight into full plants.  I was always enamored of his ability to make things grow the tiny little hairs that would sustain them once we put them in the soil.  Our house, when I was growing up, was filled with plants, many of them towering above me, or creeping, snake-like, across the floor; most of them were started from shoots.  But there were, of course, times when things didn't do what they were supposed to in Root Tone, when they turned yellow and died.  Because sometimes, they needed more.  And sometimes, they just weren't ready to root.

I've thought a lot about putting down my own roots here, where I am now.  How in some ways it happened so randomly (my husband and I were evicted from our last apartment because our landlord wanted to sell), but how it's become home, how I've created a network.   And how surprised I am that I have roots at all, despite the fact that I tend not to rely on people, that I tend to disconnect, that I've moved around so much during my life, even if most of it was within one state.

It's almost potato season for the CSA, and with the potatoes will come cabbage.  One of my favorite dishes to make with that combination lately has been Heidi Swanson's White Beans and Cabbage with Shallots, Potatoes, and Parmesan.  It's the sort of thing that's perfect for a cool summer night or even an easy lunch, perhaps with a glass of white wine.  Like my little potato plant, it's not beautiful, but it's simple, healthful comfort food.  I won't reprint the recipe here, but Sierra Madre Vineyards got permission to reprint it on their blog; here is the link to the recipe (and California folks, you can tell me if the wine is any good).

Have you ever tried to coax anything to grow roots?  Do you consider yourself a gardener?  Have you put down your own roots?  How random has that been?
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  1. You've made me want to replicate your potato experiment.

    And speaking of roots and your earlier post, my maternal grandparents were potato farmers. I don't s'pose, though, that I carry much knowledge of that in my DNA.

  2. My personal motto (or at least one of them): I never met a potato I didn't like. Seriously, I love potatoes of all sorts cooked in as many ways as exist. This recipe sounds delicious and your little science experiment is just grand.

  3. Thanks for sharing that recipe - we're already in cabbage season with our CSA and it was delicious! Although, the non-vegetarian side of me thought it would be even better with a little bacon sprinkled in :)


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