Tag Archives: potatoes

ROI: Return on Investment

Shelley Goldbeck

Return on Investment (ROI) is a term that is frequently used to describe the effectiveness of business.

One day this summer  I was harvesting new potatoes for dinner when it occurred to me what a good ROI I get from gardening.

One chunk of potato, perhaps a quarter of a potato, yielded enough potatoes for four of us for dinner, with a few leftover for hash browns with our eggs the next morning.

One seed packet of beans yielded us many meals of steamed green beans this summer. Our kale is flourishing, more than enough for us and half the neighbours!

That’s just the produce. That doesn’t include the free Vitamin D, exercise without paying for a gym pass, and peace of mind working through my problems while I garden rather than lying on a shrink’s couch at $300/hour.

Yes, the Return on Investment from gardening is huge. You should try it.

Our next Grow Food Calgary session is October 21. Tickets are available now. 


Getting Creative with Kale



Chelsie Anderson, Garden Expert

I had a bumper crop of kale and garlic this year, so I got creative in the kitchen and made “kale pesto”.





I blended up kale, olive oil, 2 garlic bulbs, lemon juice, salt, nutritional yeast and a handful of basil (for pesto’y flavour).





I stirred this into my morning steamed veggies, on noodles and potatoes for the kids and managed to use up a ton of kale in the process!

Kale Pesto



How do you cope with your produce windfalls?

Send us your stories, pictures and recipes.

Potatoes for Every Appetite

Guest post from Donna Balzer

Simple to grow, potatoes are a good starting point for people interested in growing their own produce

Like blaming the dog for eating your homework, John Mills was blaming his tractor for missing my interview call.

“I had to duct-tape my tractor radiator back together to get it working,” he said.

Mills, a fourth-generation farmer from Bowden, Alberta, is still using the same tractor his father bought second hand when John was a boy. His father started growing potatoes commercially in 1987 for the french fry market. Mills now grows 45 different kinds of potatoes, including the traditional Russet Burbank french fry potato.

Now that I had him on the phone, I ask Mills about growing potatoes – not warm climate sweet potatoes or yams, but the old fashioned Irish potatoes that are really from Peru, not Ireland. I want to know more about the tuber we commonly call spuds or white potatoes, and about the expansion of Eagle Creek Farms (www.eaglecreekfarms.ca) beyond french fries and toward organic growing.

“It was more of a transition out of that commercial world of growing (one variety of) potato to exploring the hundreds of varieties of potatoes out there,” said Mills.

“I don’t want to put down anyone who really likes Russet Burbank, but I find them a little dry,” he said. “It takes a lot of butter to really moisten them up – and salt and pepper and a lot of other seasonings.”

Mills prefers “anything that has a nice buttery texture” and he names the purple Viking and Agria a baking favourite. He also loves the yellow fleshed types, like fingerlings, banana, Sieglinde and German Butterballs, because they are so moist and tasty when baked.

Conventional store-bought potatoes are sprayed all summer with pesticides to control blight, sprayed in the fall with desiccants to kill plants evenly, and sprayed in the winter with sprouting agents to stop them from sprouting at the store.


The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) says conventional potatoes have more pesticides by weight than any other fresh food.

Mills grows organically and wants everyone to grow potatoes because it’s simple and rewarding.

He suggests preparing the potatoes indoors before planting them outside. This process, called chitting, involves laying the potatoes out in a single layer so they form little sprouts from their eyes.

“We start shipping in early April and the best thing is to take that potato and put it in a well-lit room, not necessarily in warm sunlight,” said Mills.

Mills say potatoes can be stored that way for four to eight weeks without doing any harm. When you’re ready to plant the potatoes outside, they’ve have a good head start.

For anyone who finds a bag of sprouting potatoes in the back cupboard, not all is lost. Mills suggests breaking off the long sprouts and going back to step one: chitting them in a well-lit room.

Once the soil outside warms to 10 C (50F), you can plant potatoes outside. If they freeze after you plant them, the sprouts will die back and then sprout again. Make sure to pile soil up in a small hill against each growing potato right after they sprout, so the spuds won’t see sun and won’t turn green.

Early varieties have only 5 – 8 potatoes per plant and are ready to dig up right after they bloom. Later varieties stay in the ground until September or October because they produce twenty potatoes per plant.

“I often get frustrated by people thinking growing potatoes or vegetables is some secret art. There is nothing hard about growing vegetables,” said Mills.

“I make mistakes every year and I learn from it. I like potatoes because they are easy, you don’t need to start them inside, and you don’t need any special equipment or soil or container to grow them in. Just have fun with them, all right?”

For a video about growing potatoes see my web page, www.donnabalzer.com where I help gardener’s grow and beginners’ blossom

Donna Balzer and John Mills are just two of the experts you’ll learn from at Grow Food Calgary, Starting April 22, Earth Day at the Calgary Zoo.

Grow Food Calgary Gives You a Place to Grow: Freebies Flow In

By Donna Balzer www.donnabalzer.com

Root Pouches add room to your garden

Do you wonder where you will plant everything you really want to grow this summer? Are you making choices and leaving a favourite food off your list?

It’s official. Freebies are flowing in for the registrants of Grow Food Calgary and this week we received a really big donation, and it weighs in at four packages and 77 lbs. The boxes received contain a total of 150 grow bags – enough for the entire class!

Maybe you really want to grow lettuce, but the only shady area you have is under a tree and with roots threatening to take over your soil you know lettuce can’t compete. Or you want to plant potatoes but they just take up too much space in your too tiny garden; it’s tough to decide what to grow and what to leave out.

But this week, thanks to Root Pouch of Oregon, you will have more room to grow than ever before. The donated fabric root pouch bags have a retail value of $15.00 each and are a perfect example of upcycling because they are made from recycled water bottles. The bags will be given away to Grow Food Calgary participants and, unlike other brands of “fabric” bags, these ones last forever and they are food safe.

Thanks to Root Pouch all of our participants will receive a 10-gallon bag to expand their garden. The ten gallon bags are perfect to plant lettuce under trees where the roots are kept out. And they are also ideal for potatoes.

“The best size of Root Pouch for growing potatoes,” says Root Pouch rep Ashely Fromm from Oregon, “is the 10 gallon pot because it gives you lots of room to grow. Just plant one or more potato in the bag and watch them fill up the bag over the season.”

So now you are wondering what the best potato is to plant in your root pouch? Well don’t get ahead of yourself. We have a commitment for organic potatoes for every participant. But that great news has to wait for later. Because right now, I am trying to figure out where we are going to store all this great stuff before we give it away to Grow Food Calgary registrants. Are you in yet?

Thank you, Root Pouch!