Saturday, May 12, 2007

Git out there and hill them taters boy!

This time of year always causes me to reflect back on my early days growing up in Knoxville. Hot weather, walking barefooted through the finely tilled dirt, and hearing the mourning doves, cicadas, and whippoorwills in the distance. Ah... if I could only close my eyes and be transported back to those times. Although, I could probably do without the scolding from my dad.

Twas such a familiar thing for me to hear, my dad hollering at me to get off of my lazy hind-end and get out in the garden to hill the taters (that's potatoes for all of you Appalachianly challenged folks.) When you depended on vegetables out of the garden to keep your family fed, you did everything humanly possible to make sure that your efforts weren't wasted. One of the necessary evils of raising taters, is having to make sure that when they come in, they aren't damaged from sunlight. You see, even though potatoes grow underground, if the roots of the plants are not covered with enough dirt, the potatoes will get sun damaged and turn green. This green is actually an increase in the Glycoalkaloids which creates Solanine, a powerful toxin. If you eat a green potato, chances are you're gonna be trottin' out to the old outhouse soon after. Solanine causes a number of things to happen to you. Mainly, it gives you severe diarrhea! They say that you can die from Solanine poison, although I've never known anybody to croak from eating green taters.

So, getting back to tater hilling... Just in case you don't know what tater hilling is, it's when you take a hoe and pull dirt up around the bottom of the tater plants. You pile it up nice and high so that the roots are covered well. It's a back breaking job, especially when you have an acre garden and nearly half of it is occupied by taters! It was always my job to hill the taters when I was growing up. Lucky me.

I was browsing the Web for articles about tater hilling and I ran across the neatest contraption, it's called the Quadivator™ Hilling Mold Boards (Potato Hiller) Attachment. My gosh, to think of all of the anger and frustration I could have been saved from. Of course, my Papaw's horse, Clyde, probably wouldn't have liked pulling this fancy contraption around the garden.


Jeremy Peters said...

Thanks for linking to my post. I'm enjoying the string of agriculture/gardening posts we have going. I've long felt that Appalachia's agrarian economy is one that is important but often overlooked.

It's great to see it getting some attention here.

MountainLaurel said...

I thought my folks were the only ones who grew those quantities of potatoes. That sure brings back memories.

I especially remember the time that my dad and brother decided to bury the potatoes like they did in the old days instead of putting them in the basement. They argued over the depth, and the one advocating the shorter depth won, on the basis that it's never frozen that deep before. Wouldn't you know it? We had the hardest freeze ever that winter, which completely ruined my parents' potato harvest. After that, they were kept back in the basement or in the dirt floor of the barn.

Byron Chesney said...

Jeremy: Yep, I'm really diggin' all of the agriculture/gardening posts too!

Mountainlaurel: my folks kept foster children when I was growing up, we kept 23 kids all together so we went through a BUNCH of taters! Funny story about your frozen taters, but I'll bet it wasn't too funny back then!