One Potato, Two Potatoes...

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What's the difference between these potatoes? If you're going by size, you know the spud on the right is from Texas -- it's bigger.

The one on the left doesn't look so good, because it's a seed potato. It hasn't been treated with a growth retardant, like most produce potatoes, which is why a neglected tater will sprout and go soft, but not spread vines throughout the pantry.

Lastly, the baked potato is a russet, which grows well in some parts of Texas, but not Houston.

The first time I went to Southwest Fertilizer this year, there was a huge bin of Red La Soda seed potatoes, but when I went back four days later, the bin was empty. Red La Sodas, developed in Louisiana, grow well in the Southeast, rate highly in terms of taste, and appear to be very popular with local gardeners.

There were two varieties left--Kennebec and Yukon--so I chose the latter, as Yukons from the garden have a reputation for being more delicious than commercial ones.

Before you plant a seed potato, it has to be cut up into chunks, with one or two eyes on each piece, and left to dry overnight to callous the seeds. They should be planted from two weeks before to two weeks after the last freeze date, which, debatably, is between Valentine and St. Patrick's Days.

I planted the seeds three inches deep, 10 inches apart. After each sprout emerged and grew to four inches, I piled dirt and compost around it so only one inch of green was showing. Mounding keeps the potatoes dark, moist and cool. I'll repeat mounding in three weeks, then after that keep the potatoes watered, weeded and mulched, and pour coffee grounds on them to keep the soil acidic. Yukon potatoes have a high yield, sometime around the end of June, and I'll start harvesting them when the purple flowers appear.

In the meantime, I can get one of Houston's best baked potatoes at Old Hickory Barbecue Inn (S. Braeswood and Chimney Rock), topped with butter, cheddar, green onions, their exceptional ranch dressing and chopped sausage. Green beans on the side.

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