I had never really quantified just how much Farmer John loves potatoes. One thing for sure, though, the word “loves” probably isn’t strong enough. He adores potatoes. Cherishes them. Heck, he probably dreams about them at night. So enamored is he with the humble spud, when we don’t have our own farm fresh crop, organic potatoes are included on our grocery list as one of few produce items we ever, ever buy. (The others are avocados, mushrooms, and fruit for our Sunday morning smoothies, simply because we don’t grow those things here.)

Granted, he complains about store-bought potatoes. Who wouldn’t? They’re old, flavorless, and usually in the process of pushing out “eyes” that must be flicked off before washing and chopping. Grocery store taters are good for nothing more than filler — for the occasional mashed potatoes maybe, or to saute in plenty of butter and stuff into a tortilla with scrambled eggs, then subsequently smother with salsa.

They’re a whole different animal than the luscious, freshly dug new potatoes the farm is providing us right now. To John, savoring a fresh potato, no matter how it’s cooked or served, is as close to heaven as a mere mortal might aspire. Shortly after young Matt came to work with us he asked John, out of all the things we grow on the farm, which is his favorite.

The answer was easy.

Even the Mrs. Johnson’s donuts Matt and the gang brought to the farm last week didn’t override John’s love affair with potatoes. (Although there’s no denying how appreciative he was of the bear claw they included especially for him.)

Anyone who’s dug new potatoes likely understands John’s obsession. The instant you thrust the fork into the soil alongside one of the plants,

you eagerly anticipate the treasure buried underneath. You pull back on the fork’s handle and gently lift your prize as you take in the incredible aroma of freshly disturbed earth.

Happily for all of us — even those who don’t do the digging — new taters retain that wonderful redolence for a while. Try recreating that smell with a five pound bag of grocery store potatoes.

The skins on newly-dug spuds are delicate and consequently require a little drying time before the potatoes can be gathered. As the harvesters move down the rows, they lay the unearthed taters along the ground.

Eventually they go back to gently wipe the soil from the potatoes with their hands and carefully pile them into buckers. We store the filled buckets overnight in a cool, dry room adjacent to our walk-in cooler and bring them to the farm stands the following morning.

We also tuck a few of those potatoes away for ourselves.

The first night we prepared some for dinner, John and I stood together at the sink getting them ready. He was thrilled with the prospect of newly dug taters, yet he seemed a little melancholy at the same time. It puzzled me, until he explained his conflicting emotions by saying, “I’m really going to miss these when they’re gone.”

We hadn’t even eaten any yet. And although it’s true we don’t have an infinite supply — our farm is small, and we only have so much space we can devote to potatoes — this was just the first of many fresh potato meals to come.

Then it hit me. For John, it’s a simple matter of mathematics: New potatoes + cast iron skillet ÷ number of possible dinners = not anywhere near enough, no matter how many are out there to dig.

That’s how much Farmer John loves potatoes.

* * *

For Wednesday’s stand we’ll have:

New potatoes, of course! (both Yukon Golds and Red LaSoda); three varieties of squash (zucchini, Zephyr and yellow); lettuce mix; Euro salad mix; Butter head lettuces; Summer Crisp lettuce; Romaine; arugula; sweet Yellow Granax and Red Creole spring onions; bunches of purple beets and golden beets; more gorgeous fennel; and some really fun surprises.

Yet alas, no donuts.

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, 11713 Jollyville Road (1-1/2 blocks north of the intersection of Jollyville and Duval)