This Saturday morning, we'll come together as a community to perform a quintessential agricultural ritual: We'll harvest potatoes together. As we kneel down, on the Earth, digging through the soil, packing dirt into our skin and bagging the cool bulbous tubers, we will join, in concert, tens of thousands around the world performing the same act and untold millions of ancestors who, every Fall, knelt together and harvested. We will be joined by the real living breathing chain of seed potatoes, to hundreds seasons and hundreds of harvests in Europe and Asia and to ten thousand ancestral harvests in the Andes and Northeastern Bolivia and to those people who first knelt, harvested, and saved their seed potatoes.
There is nothing quite like a potato harvest. And the feeling, then, of tucking them away; of storing them in a cool dry place, a hole, a cellar, or a cave; in boxes, in sand, in the dark; the potatoes themselves breathing slowly, living, promising food, promising life, as Fall turns to Winter.
Many have known the feeling and, sadly, many have known it's opposite. In 1845, due to limited potato genetics in the region and the cold shoulder of men, a million people starved in poorer parts of western Ireland and the Scottish highlands, the blighted potato crop rotting in the fields.
The potato has been a powerful, joyful, painful link between us and Mother Earth, in feast and in famine, for millennia. The highest caloric food crop per-acre in the world (more than corn, wheat, and rice) it is the only of these four that forms (the food part, at least) in the Earth -- shrouded in soil and darkness until we dig it up, together, in the Fall.
The poet Seamus Heaney spoke to this bond and this history beautifully in his poem, At a Potato Digging.
A mechanical digger wrecks the drill,
Spins up a dark shower of roots and mould.
Labourers swarm in behind, stoop to fill
Wicker creels. Fingers go dead in the cold.
Like crows attacking crow-black fields, they stretch
A higgledy line from hedge to headland;
Some pairs keep breaking ragged ranks to fetch
A full creel to the pit and straighten, stand
Tall for a moment but soon stumble back
To fish a new load from the crumbled surf.
Heads bow, trucks bend, hands fumble towards the black
Mother. Processional stooping through the turf
Turns work to ritual. Centuries
Of fear and homage to the famine god
Toughen the muscles behind their humbled knees,
Make a seasonal altar of the sod.
Flint-white, purple. They lie scattered
Like inflated pebbles. Native
to the blank hutch of clay
where the halved seed shot and clotted
these knobbed and slit-eyed tubers seem
the petrified hearts of drills. Split
by the spade, they show white as cream.
Good smells exude from crumbled earth.
The rough bark of humus erupts
knots of potatoes (a clean birth)
whose solid feel, whose wet inside
promises taste of ground and root.
To be piled in pits; live skulls, blind-eyed.
Live skulls, blind-eyed, balanced on
wild higgledy skeletons
scoured the land in 'forty-five,'
wolfed the blighted root and died.
The new potato, sound as stone,
putrified when it had lain
three days in the long clay pit.
Millions rotted along with it.
Mouths tightened in, eyes died hard,
faces chilled to a plucked bird.
In a million wicker huts
beaks of famine snipped at guts.
A people hungering from birth,
grubbing, like plants, in the bitch earth,
were grafted with a great sorrow.
Hope rotted like a marrow.
Stinking potatoes fouled the land,
pits turned pus in filthy mounds:
and where potato diggers are
you still smell the running sore.
Under a white flotilla of gulls
The rhythm deadens, the workers stop.
White bread and tea in bright canfuls
Are served for lunch. Dead-beat, they flop
Down in the ditch and take their fill,
Thankfully breaking timeless fasts;
Then, stretched on the faithless ground, spill
Libations of cold tea, scatter crusts.
Join us as we "shower" up the living roots and scatter libations in thanks and remembrance at our first potato harvest this Saturday!
See you in the potato field,
David and Kayta
THIS WEEKS HARVEST: Honey Bear Acorn Squash, New Yukon Gold & Bodega Red Potatoes, Cured Yellow Onions, Heirloom and New Girl Tomatoes, Tomatillos, Sweet Peppers, Summer Squash, French Breakfast Radishes, Striped Armenian & Lemon Cucumbers, Green Magic Broccoli, Farao Green and Ruby Perfection Purple Cabbage, Celery Root, Rainbow Carrots, Red Russian Kale, Dino Kale, Spinach, Fall Braising Mix (Baby Kale, Ethiopian Mustard, Tatsoi, Frisee, and Chard), Red Butter & assorted Head Lettuces
U-PICK in the GARDEN: Pesto Basil, Shishito and Black Hungarian Frying Peppers (still going, omg), Padrones, Jalapeños, Husk Cherries, all Herbs and Flowers.
U-PICK on the FARM:
Cherry tomatoes: Sungolds, Black Cherry, and Super Sweet 100's in three Rows marked with the blue flags in the main fields.
Pesto: There is a bunch of flowering Genovese Italian Basil marked with a red flag in the Eastern half of the garden. If you haven't made pesto this summer yet, or if you'd like to make a second batch, feel free to harvest up entire plants into a large bag.