Boone Farms in Idaho produces about seven percent of its 8000 acre harvest as seed potatoes, which are used to grow more of this starchy vegetable in both the home garden market and the commercial farming market. Certified seed potatoes are guaranteed to grow into the variety of potato you want and are also resistant to certain insects and soil-borne diseases. Boone Farms seed potatoes are available at selected nurseries.
The brothers Josh and Warren Boone purchased their Idaho farm in 1993, after having grown vegetables commercially in California. They began with 3500 acres in the Magic Valley area, but have increased the size of their farm to 8000 acres. The brothers focus on processed potatoes, but they also grow seed potatoes. In 2001 they grew about seven percent of their crop as seed potatoes. As of 2001, the brothers began considering purchasing farmland in North Dakota and expanding their operations there.
Description of Seed Potatoes
Seed potatoes look much like the potato you use for potato salad or other recipes, but typically they are smaller. Seed potatoes have eyes, which sprout the plant's foliage and roots. When you plant a seed potato, you can use the entire thing if it's small. Cut larger seed potatoes into two to four pieces, making sure each piece has at least two or three eyes. After you cut the seed potato, let it sit at room temperature in a well-ventilated, shady place so the pieces can form a hardened callus, which is important to do before planting.
Varieties of Seed Potatoes
Hundreds of varieties of potatoes exist. In addition to the common types you can purchase at grocery stores, such as Russet, red and Yukon gold, when you begin to look through the lists of varieties available through seed catalogs, it might be difficult to choose which potato you want to grow. White rose is one of the most common varieties, as is the Red Pontiac, according to Hume seeds. Netted gem is also popular, while Kennebac matures later in the growing season. Norgold russet is an earlier variety that is well suited to either baking or boiling. Yellow Finnish is said to have a superior flavor.
Benefits of Growing Seed Potatoes
When you grow your own potatoes and other vegetables, you will be assured of the freshest possible food. Growing seed potatoes also gives you far more choices of varieties than those available at the grocery store. It you choose to skip the pesticides and chemical fertilizers, your potatoes will be organic, which some people believe improves quality, taste and benefits the health of the humans eating them. Growing potatoes is a good gardening project for children. Potatoes grow relatively quickly and kids have fun when it comes time to dig the potatoes out of the ground and make their own French fries.
Planting and Growing Seed Potatoes
Plant seed potatoes in early spring, according to Hume Seeds. Enrich your soil with organic materials such as compost and then dig a trench about 8 inches deep. Set each seed potato on top of the soil in the trench, leaving about 12 inches between them. Cover your seed potatoes with about 1 inch of soil. As the foliage begins to grow, pile more soil into the trench---this prevents light from reaching the developing potato, which can cause it to turn green, an undesirable condition that can upset your stomach.
You can harvest your potatoes at different stages of their development: if you want a small, tender potato, harvest it when it is young. If you want a larger potato, wait until it grows to its maximum size, which usually happens in late summer when the foliage begins to turn brown. Store potatoes in a dark, cool place.