Grow Your Own! A Painful Lesson in Tuber Betrayal.


The offending spuds, with a bonus onion in the back

Education abounds in the Boomboom garden and I find myself once more starting to draft in some mental lines of change for the end of this summer.

Gardening is hard, and some plants are right gits. My potatoes, for example, are absolute gits. Having taken over the majority of my veg patch and grown so high and thick that it has made it impossible to get around them to prune the unruly hazel bushes, it became apparent a couple of weeks ago that they needed to start coming out of the ground and into a saucepan. I thought I had an impressive initial harvest, taking about a half meter strip of the earthy bumps out of the ground to fill my trug for the purposes of a spud salad to take to Her-In-Law’s house warming BBQ. Thankfully the Mr decided to taste test this offering, and declare that there’s “Quite a nasty aftertaste there.” Once I had finished breaking all his fingers cursing his very existence for having the nerve to criticise my culinary skills, I tried some myself and had to begrudgingly agree.

I will now introduce you to Solanine- a chemical found abundantly in growing potatoes which by happy coincidence is very good at deflecting attacks by pests both animal and microbiological in nature. How does it deflect these attacks? Oh, it’s a glycoalkaloid poison- which is exactly as nasty as it sounds and my spuds are brimming with it. Hooray.

In real and less dramatic terms, I would probably have to eat a couple of kilos of solanine-high spuds to experience the ill effects of cellular membrane failure in a meaningful way- like stomach cramps or nausea or nightmares or that kind of thing. However even without those fun symptoms this jolly bio-chemical will make a technically safe portion of potatoes taste like crap. Sour, cloying crap that remains with you for a good ten minutes after that first regretful swallow. The pain is so much worse for the fact that they appear on the surface to be REALLY good potatoes. Firm, pleasingly round,  so new and tender that it took little more than a rinse under the tap to skin them and none of the tell tale green tinge that would usually indicate that they were not good to go. They even taste good- a textbook creamy and carby comfort in the mouth until that horrid toxic after-tang materialises. Think about following up a perfect fork full of tagliatelle with a shot of sour metal. So near, and yet so vile.  I’m sure there are words for the levels of disappointment felt from this bitter harvest but I am still too sore on the subject to find them. Is this how it feels to love and nurture your child only for them to leave home at 18 and join a murder cult or get tattoos or something? Perhaps so. It is a palpable disappointment to have nurtured such evil, to be so betrayed by one’s babies.

So what can we do to avoid this foul occurrence in our home grown tubers of choice? What wisdom am I to pass to you from my unpalatable recent experience? Well, nothing and none, except maybe that boring old chestnut Patience. Solanine levels in potatoes drop over time. That’s it. You can’t wash it out, you can’t cook it out, you can smother it in mayonnaise and hope it’s a non leatal dose. There may be hope later in the year that the yuk levels in my Charlottes will begin to dwindle once they get a little further along but I have to say we have been put off somewhat and definitely won’t be sampling them again for another month or so.

Such sadness. I love a potato salad.


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