The potato harvest begins in June and continues into October. Usually the condition of the potato leaves shows when the harvest time has come. It is withered and partly dead. It’s best to dig up a potato or two and test the skin.
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The right time for the potato harvest
As already indicated, the right harvest time depends on the potato variety. So you have to know whether the planting is early, mid-early or late potatoes. Alternatively, you just have to look for the potato tops. If the herb has dried up above ground, you should wait another three weeks, then the potatoes have to get out of the ground. It is important that the potatoes have a firm skin that cannot be peeled off with your fingers.
I recommend always pulling a potato plant out of the ground first and checking whether it is already ripe. You can usually tell from the color of the shell. It mustn’t be too bright. In addition, a portion can be prepared, just to test the taste. If possible, I would also harvest during a dry period. Not only does it make tilling easier, it’s a cleaner thing too.
The first new potatoes emerge from the ground in late May to early June. If you want to eat the potatoes fresh and don’t want to store them longer than two weeks, you don’t have to wait until the cabbage has wilted. New potatoes for immediate consumption may still have green leaves. You just try out whether they already taste good and then you can start harvesting. If you want to keep the potatoes for more than 14 days, you should wait until the leaves have turned yellow. The potatoes can then be stored better. However, these should not be kept for longer than four to five weeks. New potatoes are not stored potatoes. They contain too much water and have a too thin shell. Also, the starch content is simply too low. On the other hand, new potatoes usually have an excellent taste. Early varieties:
- Christa, Berber, Acapella, Anais, Bellaprima, Erika, Finka, Gloria, Heidi, La Ratte, Magda, Molli, Rosara – very early
- Sieglinde, Nicola, Agata, Aktiva, Amandine, Baccara, Birte, Cilena, Elvira, Gala, Hela, Lady Felicia, Natascha, Princess – early
Mid-early potatoes are usually ripe from mid-August to the end of September. These potatoes already have a firmer skin and can be stored for up to three months. Mid-early varieties:
- Adelina, Agnes, Alexandra, Bellinda, Blaue St. Galler, Charlotte, Danuta, Esprit, Finessa, Krone, Lolita. Melody, Ottawa – mid-morning
Late potatoes are ready for harvest from mid-September to the end of November. Their thick skin and higher starch content make them last much longer. They are the best stored potatoes. Late potatoes for storage should stay in the ground for as long as possible so that their peel can easily “cork”. Late varieties:
- Amado, Aspirant, Cascada, Laura, Aula, Avano, Bavapom, Bonanza, Burana, Donella, Pheasant, Cormorant, Logo – medium late to late
- Aula, Danuta, Eurogrande, Euronova, Highland Burgundy Red, Jelly, Kuras, Marena, Euroresa, Eurostarch, Eurotango – mittelspät
- Adretta – late
Equipment for the potato harvest
The digging fork is best suited for the potato harvest. It has traditionally been used for this activity for centuries. It is beneficial that they can be pierced into the earth so easily. The tines also prevent the individual potatoes from being damaged or injured too much.
The potato hoe has an even older tradition. With its prongs it looks similar to the digging fork, the handle just doesn’t sit vertically, but at a 90 ° angle. That makes digging easier. I find the digging fork easier to loosen, and the hoe to look for individual potatoes, but that’s certainly a matter of opinion.
Alternatively, a spade can also be used for harvesting. Leverage is more important here. The potatoes are pushed upwards by the leverage.
In commercial farming, machines are used to harvest potatoes.
How are potatoes harvested?
When harvesting the potatoes, the main thing is to damage the potatoes as little as possible. These have to be processed as quickly as possible and if there are too many it becomes a problem. I recommend using a digging fork. It stings easily into the ground and does little damage. Women can also use it well and easily, especially on firm ground. It can be more difficult with the spade.
The fork is simply pricked into the ground so that the potato plant can then be lifted from bottom to top with a leverage effect. It is important not to pierce the ground immediately next to the plant, but to keep a little distance. This protects the ripe fruits from damage. It is stabbed as straight as possible into the ground and then a lever is applied. If resistance can be felt, it is better to pierce again.
If the soil is well loosened, grab the potato plant at the bottom where the stems are close together and pull them out of the ground. Potatoes that can be harvested hang from the bottom. If you need more, you simply have to look for more fruit in the loose soil. Once you’ve had enough, you can leave the rest for a few days and get some if necessary.
It is important that the potatoes are not exposed. They must be covered with earth. If potatoes are exposed, green spots appear exactly where light falls on the potatoes. These places are not without danger.
Of course, one must not forget to search the entire potato bed carefully for any remaining fruit. It’s best to do this with your hands or a short rake or shovel, this will avoid injuries.
Green spots on potatoes
Everyone has probably seen green spots on potatoes. They are to be consumed with caution. I don’t want to panic here, but I want to point it out. Solanine, a slightly bitter-tasting substance that is poisonous, is hidden behind these green areas. It occurs in all nightshade plants, but is concentrated in the green areas. The potato peel also contains solanine. The substance is not broken down by our digestive enzymes.
- Peeling the potato significantly reduces the solanine content. So there is no danger to us humans.
- In green potatoes, however, the content is significantly higher and this can lead to poisoning.
- Poisoning can occur from a concentration of 1 mg / kg body weight. Children and lightweights are particularly at risk.
- However, you have to eat over 2 kilograms of jacket potatoes to get such high values.
- Symptoms are:
- Burning and scratchy throat
- Stomach discomfort
- Body aches
- In the worst case, it can lead to a breakdown of the red blood cells, disruption of the circulatory and respiratory functions and damage to the central nervous system.
Potatoes from your own garden are great. They are easy to grow, care for and harvest. Finding the right time to harvest is not difficult. Usually you can see when the time has come. The old farmer’s rule of waiting another three weeks to finally harvest is really helpful. The potatoes can then be stored better. The actual harvest is also not a problem. If you have a lot of space available, you should plant in such a way that not all potatoes ripen at the same time. So you have fresh goods longer. I envy everyone who has the space for potatoes. Unfortunately, my garden is too small for that.