Ambrosi: The many joys of the humble potato

Jody Richards wants YOU to grow your own potatoes! A founding member of the Vegan Cookbook Club, Jody brings inspirational energy to everything she does, and when it comes to potatoes, Jody wants to share the message that they are easy to grow, e...

Home fries and vegan mashed potatoes are two ways to enjoy homegrown spuds. Emma Ambrosi / Special to Forum News Service

Jody Richards wants YOU to grow your own potatoes!

A founding member of the Vegan Cookbook Club, Jody brings inspirational energy to everything she does, and when it comes to potatoes, Jody wants to share the message that they are easy to grow, even if you don’t have a traditional garden, and the result will give you much joy and good eating.

Jody’s husband, Kent, is a dedicated gardener who has been growing backyard potatoes for at least 25 years. Jody and Kent find the flavor and quality of their homegrown spuds far superior to supermarket potatoes, and Jody makes home fries for supper most Fridays.

Potatoes are well-suited for growing in pots or even in bags. You can grow potatoes on a patio, deck or balcony. If you shop for “seed potatoes” through seed catalogs, you’ll find dozens of different varieties available in all sizes, shapes and colors. You can also buy seed potatoes locally at garden centers, or you can simply use those organic potatoes in your pantry that are beginning to sprout.

Kent and Jody have settled on Katahdin and Red Norland as their favorite varieties for great texture and taste, good yield and superior storage quality.


“We save the smallest tubers (between golf ball and egg size) each year as seed potatoes, so we don’t need to buy them anymore,” Kent said. “On average, we harvest 40 to 60 pounds of potatoes each year from a 6x10 foot plot. We store them in an unheated basement room. It’s early April as I write this, and we are still eating last year’s potatoes.”

Kent’s advice to first-time potato gardeners: “Don’t be afraid to try. It’s hard to fail.”

Whether you grow your own or buy them at the store or farmer’s market, potatoes are the most versatile of vegetables. They can be boiled, grilled, oven-roasted, mashed, made into potato salads and added to soups. Here are a few recipes to get you started.

Jody’s Home Fries 1 large potato per person, unpeeled, cut into wedges ¼-½ inch thick

Olive oil


Herbs of your choice



In a bowl, drizzle potato wedges with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and herb blend of your choice. Spread potato wedges on a baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 30 to 50 minutes, depending on the thickness of the potatoes and how brown you like them.

Ellen Vaagen’s Himalayan Chickpea Potato Salad “I love Himalayan Chickpea Potato Salad because it can be eaten warm, chilled, in a wrap, over greens, or as a side dish.” - Ellen


1 15-ounce can or 1½ cups cooked chickpeas

1 large russet potato, peeled and diced

1 large tomato, diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ tablespoon toasted sesame oil


2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ teaspoon turmeric

4 teaspoons ground cumin

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 or 2 green thai or serrano chiles, seeded and minced (optional)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

⅛ to ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder

2 green onions thinly sliced


½ cup chopped cilantro


Boil diced potato in water until tender; drain and set aside. Combine olive oil, sesame oil, lemon juice, spices, chili, salt and pepper in a small bowl to make a sauce. Combine cooked potatoes, chickpeas, tomatoes and green onions in a large bowl and stir in the sauce plus the cilantro.

Vegan Mashed Potatoes Vegan Cookbook Club member Marian Flammang has saved a decades-old newspaper clipping of instructions for “perfect mashed potatoes” plus five variations. Here they are, easily veganized.

Basic Mashed Potatoes 2 lbs boiling potatoes

4 tablespoons vegan butter such as Earth Balance or Canola Harvest, or olive oil

½ cup unflavored unsweetened plant milk, vegetable stock (include some of the potato water), or vegan “buttermilk” made by combining ½ cup plain plant milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt and pepper



Peel, cut up and boil potatoes for 20 minutes. Drain potatoes, return to pan briefly to dry, then mash with remaining ingredients.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes Add two large cloves of garlic to potato cooking water and follow recipe for Basic Mashed Potatoes. Mash the garlic along with potatoes.

Mediterranean-style Mashed Potatoes Make Basic Mashed Potatoes using olive oil and add 2 tbsp fresh minced basil at the end.

Irish-style Mashed Potatoes Finely chop two small leeks and simmer for five minutes in ½ cup plant milk. Use this milk and the leeks in Basic Mashed Potatoes.

Rich Mashed Potatoes Make basic mashed potatoes with vegan butter and ¼ cup plant milk. Add ½ cup vegan sour cream, such as Tofutti brand.

Potato Tips Store potatoes in the dark at cool room temperature with good air circulation - a basket in a pantry or basement is often ideal. Do not refrigerate.

If your storage potatoes show signs of sprouting, just scoop out the sprout; the potatoes will keep for quite a while longer.


Never eat the sprouts or leaves of a potato, as they can make you sick.

Do not eat potatoes with green skins. This is caused by exposure to the sun. The green skin contains solanine, which is mildly toxic. If your potato has a green “shoulder,” cut off that part and use the rest of the potato.

How to grow your own potatoes in a pot   Consult websites (search “growing potatoes in containers”) or library books for detailed instructions, but here’s the basic idea:

  • Choose a sunny spot - your potatoes need six to eight hours of light per day.
  • Fill the container(s) 3 inches deep with all-purpose potting soil.
  • Small potatoes can be planted whole. Larger potatoes should be cut into chunks with several eyes per chunk. More than one potato or chunk can be planted in one large pot.
  • Cover the potatoes with three inches of soil and keep it moist but not soggy.
  • When the potato vine has grown a few inches above the soil, add more soil almost to the top of the vine.
  • Continue this process until the soil level reaches the top of your container.
  • After the potato plant has flowered and the vine is beginning to turn yellow, it’s time to harvest the potatoes. Simply dump out the pot - in the yard or on a dropcloth or newspapers - and find the potato tubers in the soil.

Did you know? According to, the evidence-based benefits of a vegan diet include weight loss, heart health, reduced arthritis pain and lower risk of type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

What To Read Next
Get Local