I remember catching a snippet of a reality show some years back where a group of people were planting potatoes. (No, the reality show didn’t feature Paris Hilton. It was on PBS. You know, the channel with edgy-cay-shunal programming.) One of the group’s members wasn’t enjoying the work one little bit and cried out, “How stupid is it to plant a potato in order to grow a potato!?!”

To someone like that guy, whose only experience with raw potatoes was obviously in the produce section of a grocery store, I’m sure the process seemed asinine. I mean, why not just eat the potato that’s in your hand, rather than burying it in the ground only to wait all that time for another potato?

We all know the answer, of course. While indeed you must plant potatoes to grow potatoes, each “seed” potato becomes a plant that produces many more. It’s a matter of arithmetic.

We enjoyed a really successful potato crop last spring, and we’re trying to duplicate that success on a smaller scale this fall. We rarely grow fall potatoes – usually we can’t stop ourselves from selling and eating them all in the spring and summer – but this year we made the mistake of storing our hard pears in the same room as the two remaining boxes of spring potatoes (that, truth be told, we were hoarding for ourselves) which caused all the taters to sprout at once. Some farmer friends had an abundance of sprouted potatoes, as well, and offered us 100 pounds to plant in addition to our own.

It’s nowhere near as many as we grow for our spring crop, and it’ll be kind of a chore to keep the plants alive through the inevitable cold spells long enough to give us fresh potatoes, but it’s worth a shot. Farmer John is especially hopeful. He’s a tater man if there ever was one.

Garlic is similar to potatoes, in that you plant garlic to get garlic. Yet rather than putting an entire garlic bulb into the ground and expecting it to grow into many garlic bulbs, you instead separate the bulbs and plant each clove. Every year, we try to hold back enough garlic to replant.

It ain’t easy. This year, like every year past, we went a little crazy selling and eating our own garlic, and wound up having to buy more “seed.” (Self-restraint, particularly when it comes to stockpiling potatoes and garlic, isn’t one of our virtues.) This is only a portion of what we’re working on planting now. Lucky for us, another farmer friend grows an enormous amount of garlic and was willing to sell us some of his stash.

Planting garlic, like planting potatoes, can be a rather painful endeavor without the aid of tools. For many years, our method of planting garlic cloves was to shove them one-at-a-time into the soil with our bare fingers. It doesn’t take long for that to hurt like the dickens, yet Farmer John and I never considered doing it any other way. It took a young mind (and young fingers) to finally come up with a better idea: Mary suggested last year that we try “dibbling.”

Probably somewhere you can buy a snazzy professional dibbling implement, but we’ve never been especially snazzy (nor terribly professional) so we fashioned a dibbler from the handle of an old broken hoe,

as displayed here by our favorite on-site model, Farmer John.

After the beds designated for garlic are tilled, amended and lined with three rows of irrigation tape, the person in charge of dibbling pokes somewhat evenly-spaced holes alongside each tape.

Once the holes are poked, the garlic planters follow along and drop a clove, pointy-side-up, into each one.

Someone else follows afterwards and fills each hole with soil.

This is not an illustration of that procedure, but isn’t that giant cluster of fall wildflowers behind Farmer John incredible? I couldn’t help but include a photo….

As for the garlic, we’ll begin enjoying the fruits of our labor early next spring when we start harvesting tender stalks of green garlic. Later, we’ll sell fresh bulbs. Later still, bags of dried cloves. At some point during the garlic’s metamorphosis, we’ll start digging next spring’s crop of “new” potatoes, and eventually storage potatoes. It’s all a process. Potatoes beget more potatoes; garlic cloves beget garlic bulbs.

I wonder if that reality show guy ever figured it out. It doesn’t matter. We get it. You get it. And we all eat well.

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We have LOTS of goodies for the farm stand this Wednesday! Even if you’re running late, don’t fret – we’ll be there. Here’s what we’re bringing:

Loads of spinach (yay!); gorgeous pink & purple radishes; all-lettuce salad mix; “European” salad (a mix of arugula, French lettuces, cress, escarole, radicchio); Butterhead lettuce; three varieties of summer squashes – Zephyr, yellow squash and zucchini; Asian cucumbers; bags of arugula; bunches of mixed Asian mustard greens; bunches of chard; bunches of Brussels greens; butternut squash; heirloom eggplant, Italian eggplant and white Japanese eggplant; red, yellow and white bell peppers, cubanelle peppers, jalapenos and some Corno di Toro peppers; bunches of basil; and more…

Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stands:
Saturdays 9:00-1:00 in Jonestown on FM 1431 at the blinking yellow light; and
Wednesdays 10:00-2:00 in NW Austin at the Asian American Center on Jollyville Road (1-1/2 blocks north of the intersection of Jollyville and Duval)