February for planting potatoes, I am told by my spouse’s ex, who is herself a gardener, and has lived here long enough to know it well. I have never grown potatoes. They’ve always intimidated me. Like rhubarb. It’s the poisonous leaves. Yes, I’m the one who will go to the woods and hunt down chanterelles, I will dig up bitty bunches of wild onions, and forage for wild blackberries. But I fear growing potatoes.
I’ve grown other root crops no problem. Stubby little carrots in soda bottles on a balcony. Tubs of sweet potatoes while I lived in my studio apartment—but those leaves you can eat. Regular old potatoes? The kind you say “I’m a meat and potatoes kind of person” about? I can’t grow those. Growing those is devilry, I tell you! Besides, they don’t grow in Florida.
Except they do. We have commercial potato production all throughout the state. Unlike the rest of the country, just not a whole hell of a lot of Russet potatoes (they mature too slowly, where slowly means in summer, during the heat, when bugs and disease will kill what they can). There goes that theory.
So I went to the local nursery and bought seven pounds of Red Pontiac potatoes, a variety which was developed in Florida. I would have bought less, except this was the smallest amount they carried. The potatoes came in a brown paper bag, which I eyed dubiously, and cradled in my arms like a small child with an enormous stack of forbidden books of dark magic.
When I got them home, I cast skeptical glances over at their corner. The rain helped me prepare the garden beds. Sort of. You know how rain is. Don’t have to water, don’t have to worry about the sun hurting my spuds and their little eyes. So many eyes. It also kind of allowed me to delay planting the tubers, which looked like an army of tentacled Cthulhu acolytes reaching out of the sack. Some of them would have to be chopped into small pieces. I figured I would do that bit later, because it intimidated me.
I dug the little trenches lined with compost for my small foot soldiers of Cthulhu, and then buried them over. Thirteen of them, a devil’s dozen. I still have so many more potatoes to plant, big hulking seed potatoes waiting for my knife, waiting for a black loamy cavity in the earth. Creepy. I can’t help but prefer the little started slips of my sweet potatoes, leaves all happy and green… and edible.
So now I wait for the poisonous shoots to come up. And for the tiny tubers to get bigger. Witchcraft, mark my words.