May is planting season around here, the month usually starting by ensuring the root veggies are in the ground and ending by poking hundreds of more delicate seeds into the soil.
The weather cooperated long enough for me to till the recently-thawed layer of topsoil in the corner of my yard which I keep open for an annual vegetable garden.
… and then to plant a small bag of seed potatoes, neatly covered up with dirt and marked with a makeshift stake in the ground nearby.
A local gardening guru was recently a guest on the CBC morning radio show and he was discussing a strange topic to which the answer was, in fact, potatoes.
As it turns out there is a strong community of home gardeners who think deeply about things like caloric yield and nutritional output per square meter of soil. In the event of an “end of the world” type scenario, maximizing how much food one can grow in a small plot of land is something that enough folks have given enough thought to that aforementioned guru used it as the topic of his weekly radio segment.
His calculations showed potatoes were the winner, being both one of the most reliable and highly producing plant that can occupy your backyard in the event of cataclysmic events of the kind that wipe out the global supply chain, but leave you enough time to become a backyard subsistence farmer.
A similar calculation played out in the science fiction novel (and later film) The Martian where explorer astronaut Mark Watney finds himself left behind and stranded on Mars after a mission failure and hasty evacuation, and needs to use his botany skills to stay alive long enough for a rescue attempt some months (or years?) away. The science-driven narrative turns to the humble spud, the only fresh food sent along on the space voyage and intended as a happy holiday dinner on another planet, as the means by which meticulously calculated cultivation keeps the astronaut alive long enough for the plot to proceed.
I planted nine hills of potatoes yesterday which by late summer should yield enough tubers for a couple plates of fries and a few roasted dishes alongside maybe a campfire steak or two.
And ideally that’s all I’ll need them for.