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The Great Potato Roast!

Updated: Oct 6, 2022

June marks the transition from spring to summer, which comes rapidly and with force in the Sacramento Valley. Temperatures jump from the seventies to three digits, seemingly overnight. At Peregrine School, we start seed potatoes in “bags” in February so that they can be harvested just before school closes in June.

Our last garden class for all grades is “the great potato roast”, in which we dig up, wash, cut and season, and roast potatoes in foil on coals. Roasted with butter and salt, the freshly dug potatoes are delicious.

Kids hunt for potatoes with their hands in the potato bags and by overturning them onto the ground.

Digging for potatoes is like a treasure hunt. The potato bags make it easy to find them all, but potatoes can of course be planted in the ground as well.

Once they are dug and washed, we cut them up and place them in a double foil wrap with butter and salt. Cut into one-inch chunks, they cook on the fire in less than one half hour, then can be unwrapped on a plate and devoured.

The digging of potatoes marks the end of the winter garden. The summer garden should be already planted but can be filled in with last-minute plants. One of our summer favorites is a Three Sisters Garden plot, which follows a Native American legend about three sisters: corn, beans, and squash. These plants are called “sisters” because they help each other to grow.

First plant a circle of corn plants, about 8 plants. Let it get started for two weeks. Then add about 16 bean seeds around the corn and a third circle of pumpkin or squash seeds around them.

How do these “sisters” help each other? The corn grows tall, providing a structure for the beans to climb. The beans, in turn, provide nitrogen for the corn, because of the nitrogen-fixing bacteria that are on legume roots. The squash or pumpkins grow out over the ground, shading it, and helping to avoid the growth of other weeds. This story of complementary plants is a nice metaphor for how we can help each other as human beings, each sharing our particular talents as do these plants.

Soon it will be the summer solstice, on June 21. This is an important day, because it is the longest day of the year, when the sun is most intense. Human cultures all over the world celebrate this “midsummer” event with barbeques, swimming, and fireworks. Although most of the summer days lie ahead, evenings will start to get shorter, little by little, after this day, as the earth makes its way through its seasonal cycle. Summer in the valley is a time to enjoy cool mornings and long evenings outside, and rest inside in the heat of the day, and to eat the bounty that gardens produce.


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