The Sangre potato we were gifted

I’m going to start this post by repeating something that I find myself saying and writing quite often.. Small House has allowed me to see and learn so many new things that I never would have even imagined possible.. Its already been an amazing journey  and we’ve only been here since 2013..

We’ve got a lot of new things happening around the homestead this spring. It seems like almost every day we find ourselves involved in some new, unexpected adventure..  and the one I’m going tell you about today was certainly unexpected; Our Potato Adventure.

I’ll say that it all started a couple months back, right after our visit from Joseph Simcox… In the days after his visit my facebook page was flooded with new friend requests and group invites from seed savers, gardeners, botanists, and plant lovers of all shapes and sizes. It was a little overwhelming to tell you the truth but the connections I’ve made with these like minded people around the country have been pretty awesome. I was swapping seeds through the mail with people in the first week!

One of the groups I found myself involved with was a group of potato growers called The Kenosha Potato Project. This is where I learned about TPS. I didn’t just learn about TPS, it was offered to me.
If you’re anything like I was a couple months ago, you have no idea what TPS even is.. You wouldn’t know that TPS stands for True Potato Seed. You had no idea that some varieties of potato actually produced fruit above ground.. fruit that produced true botanical potato seed.  Nope, if you’re anything like I was, you’ve never heard of any of this!

Now, I’m not going to even attempt to explain (or pretend that I could explain) why TPS is a such an exciting  thing to grow,  aside from the fact that the seeds are never guaranteed to produce a potato similar to the one that set the seed… imagine if you will, instead of basically cloning a potato to recreate identical potatoes to harvest, you plant a unique seed that will then grow into a unique potato. Now you clone THIS potato by planting it the next year and it produces a crop of potatoes that may even fruit and produce seed of its own! Now that’s exciting! Well, at least it is to me.. here’s a brief introduction to TPS (and surely a better explanation) Also, Google is full of information.. give it a search if you’d like to know more..

So anyways, I was gifted seeds for three different potato varieties. Two yellow and one blue. One of the yellow potatoes, the Russian Banana, was particularly special as there were less than a dozen members of the group growing this variety from TPS… and only four of us in North America! As you can imagine, I took this responsibility very seriously.. The seeds are very small, similar in appearance to tomato seeds but even smaller.. and the germination time can take anywhere up to two weeks or more! Our seeds sprouted rather quickly, with the first sprouts appearing after only six days! After they began to produce a few sets of their true leaf it was time to transplant them to a larger container. I was amazed at how deep of a root structure the little plants had already formed..

Now they have been moved outside into the low tunnel until I am able to get them planted in the ground.. they are predicting our last frost date to be May 20th this year, so it will most likely be right after that. I don’t want to take any chances with these special plants! This year they will hopefully produce a crop of small tubers that will then be the seed potatoes that I plant in the gardens next year. And if all goes well, and I have some good fortune on my side, I may even be able to harvest my own collection of TPS!

While that seems unlikely to me, seeing as how True Potato Seed is something that I had never even heard of until earlier this year, growing potatoes that produce seed is a little more common in my neighborhood than one might think…

The other day while discussing TPS with someone on facebook (potatoes and their seed has become a regular topic around here) I met someone else that was fortunate enough to discover TPS all on their own.. and not someone too far from me at all… in fact, she only lives about a mile away from here!

Last year she had purchased some Sangre seed potato and grew them out in her home garden. Much to her surprise the plants produced berries at the end of the season.. this was something she had never seen before, but after reading up on what she had discovered on the internet she decided to try to harvest some of this rare seed and see what it was all about..

She knew what she had on her hands was something special but I don’t think she was quite prepared for how excited and enthusiastic I was when we started to talk about her potatoes. I’m guessing that it was probably the first time in her life that she had a perfect stranger ask if he could come over to her house to see her potato plants and take pictures of them!

But she did let me come over. And she did let me take pictures of her plants. AND she even let me take home one of the sprouted Sangre potatoes! AND she even let me take home some of the TPS that her plant produced last year!!! It was like Christmas for me or something.. Potato Christmas.
I came home very excited and showed Heather all of the wonderful gifts I was given by our neighbor.. she gave me that smile that she gives me when I ramble on about potato seeds or rare bean varieties, “That’s nice dear.” She could hardly contain her excitement.Right away I got my TPS planted and under the grow lights.. this is a variety of potato that has already proven to produce seed right here in my area.. the odds are in my favor that it may produce for me as well! And I took the sprouted tuber and made what is known as “pull starts” with it.. Simply put, I broke off the individual sprouts and planted each one separately as its own plant. The original tuber went into cold storage to save for making sprouts again later.. you can learn more about “pull starts” here.

If you would have asked me 6 months ago about planting potatoes here at Small House I would have told you that it wasn’t likely to be an activity that we would be pursuing this year..  if you asked me about growing potatoes at Small House now, well.. I would talk your ear off about the four different varieties that we’re growing from True Potato Seed, our neighbor’s Sangre potato, the Kenosha Potato Project and the entire adventure.. Our Potato Adventure.