Just in time for St Patrick’s Day, I receive questions about potatoes and cabbage — two traditional Irish staples.
Can I plant store-bought potatoes and get a crop?
Conventional wisdom says that store-bought potatoes have been treated with an anti-sprouting agent. However, I have always seen the grocery store ones sprouting after a while. If you pre-sprout the potatoes in a light, cool place, preferably around 50 degrees, you will see the eyes developing shoots and can decide if you want to use these as seed potatoes.
The variety of potato is important. The most popular spud in the grocery store is the russet. This is a long-season variety and doesn’t always do well in our cooler climate. Instead look for earlier producers such as Yukon Gold, Red Pontiac or Kennebec.
I still have potatoes left from last season. Some are starting to look shriveled and others have big green patches on them. Can I plant them this year?
Green skin on a potato is caused by exposure to light which causes solanine to develop in the spud. It tastes foul and can cause stomach upset if eaten in quantity, however, it doesn’t harm the growing properties and can certainly be used for seed potatoes. Pre-sprout the shriveled spuds a week or two before your planting date. If they get off to a good start, you can use them provided they aren’t totally dried out.
I seem to remember that you printed a recipe for a dish that used potatoes and cabbage. Can you reprint that, please?
That dish was probably colcannon, a traditional Irish mashed potato recipe that includes cabbage, butter and onions. Absolutely delicious, colcannon is simply a mix of cooked chopped cabbage, butter, sauteed onions and mashed potatoes. You can also add in some cooked greens or crisp bacon pieces if desired.
While this is a dish you can easily adapt to your individual tastes, these two links provide recipes. The first is a lighter version with boiled cabbage while the second one uses sauteed cabbage: www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/colcannon-potatoes and www.spendwithpennies.com/colcannon-recipe-cabbage-and-potatoes.
I want to make some sauerkraut this upcoming summer. What is the best variety of cabbage to use?
Sauerkraut is a deliciously fermented product that is reportedly rich in probiotics, which enhance the digestive process. Sauerkraut can easily be made and preserved at home and consists simply of cabbage and salt. The proportion of salt to cabbage is crucial to the quality and safety of the end product so look for a recipe from University Extension or other research-oriented sites.
As to what variety of cabbage to use, you can actually use any type you want, including red cabbage. However, the experts generally recommend using a mid-to-late season harvest. These heads are generally larger than earlier varieties and may contain a higher sugar content, which helps in the fermentation process.
Once your kraut has fermented sufficiently, it can be processed in a boiling water bath for long-term storage or stored fresh in the refrigerator. The heating process can damage the probiotics so for the best nutritional punch, cold storage might be best. For information as well as a tested recipe, see https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5364.
What types of cabbage are best for long-term storage?
For optimal storage, choose a cabbage specifically bred for storage such as the uniquely named Storage Number 4 variety. Available from Johnny’s, Reimer or Stokes Seeds, I have stored this type for months on end. Red varieties usually do well too. Try Red Acre or Ruby Perfection. If stored in the crisper drawer, be sure to monitor moisture levels to guard against mold.
Beverly Carney can be reached at cultivating firstname.lastname@example.org.