Category Archives: Potatoes

Growing in Coffee Bags

This weekend I planted my potatoes in recycled coffee bags just like I did last year.

What I love about this method is it allows you to grow bonus food by simply finding a few square feet anywhere in the right light conditions, even over concrete.  If you aren’t using your driveway to park the car or have unused patio space you can turn it into grow space!

Here are other bonuses:

  • Inexpensive compared to raised beds or pots
  • Re-use existing materials rather than increase consumer demand for plastics or wood
  • All natural materials can be composted at the end of the grow season so nothing to store over winter
  • Easier to hill late variety potatoes by simply unrolling the bags sides and adding more dirt
  • Excellent drainage during wet and soggy springs keeps your potatoes healthier
  • At harvest time simply dump the whole thing into a wheel barrel and sort for potatoes, no more cutting into them with the spade or stabbing with a garden fork
  • Growing in bags around the base of young fruit trees allows you to use that space without disturbing the tree’s root zone and the tree roots will benefit from the mulch effect and any draining water from the burlap bags (sort of a slow release watering.)

Where can you get some coffee bags? You can check with your local coffee roaster but if you live in Seattle you’re in luck. You can get them from Upcycle NW. And while you are there you can pick up free coffee chaff to use either as organic matter and browns to your compost pile, as a top layer for your worm compost bin to keep fruit flies at bay, or as chicken bedding (which then gets added to your compost pile as the brown organic matter layer.)

They also have roasted coffee grounds to add nitrogen to your compost pile or soil mixes and roasted and unroasted beans to use decoratively in the garden or as a top mulch layer that will slowly release nitrogen into the garden. And if you are container gardening adding a few inches of beans at the bottom of the container will help improve drainage.

Can you tell I’m a huge fan?

As an added bonus if you reply in the comments that you want any organic coffee bags to use as containers I can have them at my open garden on April 17 for you to purchase.

The no cut are $3 each (have not been sliced open) and the top cut bags are $2.25 each. I’ve used both as planters and either work fine.

So if you weren’t planning to grow potatoes (or squash) because they take up too much valuable garden space go outside and look around for any possible spot to put a coffee bag and then reply below or email UpcycleNW for their hours so you can pick some up.

Now go grow some food already!

Sustainable Cooking Fat

This is an odd name for a post I know. One challenge I have is the oil & fat for our diet. Local butter is crazy expensive but still a mainstay in baked goods and because of the health benefits I choose to continue buying coconut oil. My other oil of choice is olive oil from California.

We don’t fry much or use much mayo (which I make using a combination of olive and coconut oil) so I typically purchase just a few bottles of olive oil a year, mostly in the summer months when we like to sautee oil-absorbing veggies like egplants and zucchini.

Last spring I had made beef broth from Thundering Hooves soup bones which tasted great but had an amazingly thick layer of beef fat on the surface. After letting the broth cool I scraped it off and stored it in the freezer, unsure what to do with it.

Last night I pulled it out, shaved off a chunk and heated it in the frying pan. Then I took about 4 of the potatoes from our tuber buy through Sustainable Greenlake and cut them with the mandolin. Thanks for growing them for us, Skeeter! I fried them gently in the tallow until golden brown and crunchy, then sprinkled on some kosher salt and gave them to the kids.

potato-chips1

Even Mr. Pancake aka “I don’t like potatoes” was lured into trying one based on his brother’s ecstatic reaction. They scarfed them down faster then I could fry them. The potato chips were crunchy and salty with a hard to place beefiness, much like the McDonald’s french fries of my youth.

So when we pick up our cow from Cascade Range Beef complete with soup bones next week and I make bone broth for winter Pho I know just what to do with the tallow this time. Potato chip on! And now in search of a fry daddy…