You’ve heard of winter wheat, but winter potatoes? Well, it turns out that most root vegetables can survive the winter by getting sweeter and more delicious if they go through a freeze.
Cassandra Dyck agrees and shares her process. “I plant the potatoes later in the summer or early fall so they have a chance to grow. Then I cover them with straw to prevent the potatoes that are higher in the ground from freezing and becoming soft and rotten. So it’s like being in the fridge all winter.
She also mentions that she plants the potatoes quite deep, isolating them with the straw. “So that really helps. I guess you want to be below the frost line because if they freeze you’ll dig up mushy potatoes.
Dyck says that even though they’re in the ground all winter, they don’t rot. “I only had one pair that had a few weak points, but 90% of them were perfectly good, nice and clean.”
She plants the potatoes in September and they stay in the ground for 7 or 8 months and in Dyck’s experience they have always been “perfectly fine.” I have never put a potato in the ground in the summer and waited until next year to dig it up.
But there was a time when she forgot to dig up the potatoes in the spring, “when I was putting up my (spring) potatoes this year, I found a few plants that I guess I had neglected and they were still going perfectly well. “
Dyck says she prefers the Yukon Gold or Red Pontiac potato. “I find these to be really durable because when I store potatoes indoors over the winter I find they hold up really, really well.”
She explains that potatoes left in the ground over winter become very sweet. “Just like putting potatoes in the fridge, they get sweeter. So the potatoes I dug up this year are very sweet. They taste like sweet potatoes, which is great if you like sweet potato fries.
Dyck says winter potatoes also change the taste of dishes. “They’re really good and I love sweet potato fries, so this is perfect for me. Just make the dip and you’re good to go.
“It’s really easy. Just plant them, cover them and forget about them until the ground thaws. So voila, you have more potatoes.
Other root vegetables that local gardeners plant in the fall to harvest in the spring are beets, carrots, parsnips, radishes and turnips.