We grow almost all of our vegetables here, but at the moment we haven’t got sufficient space under cultivation for a favorite winter staple—the potato. We always put in a bed of French fingerlings, a productive, waxy, almost buttery potato with red skin and yellow flesh. My favorite way to prepare them is scrubbed (but unpeeled), sliced into wedges, tossed with sea salt, cracked black pepper, fresh rosemary sprigs and several cloves of garlic, pressed. And olive oil, of course. Spread on a large sheet and roasted in the convection oven, they are SOOO good, there are NEVER any left over—even the blackened bits of garlic are scarfed down.
But today, my mission was to track down 2 or 3 50 pound bags of good Maine spuds up in The County. This largest, most Northern, county in the state, officially known as Aroostook, is a potato growing paradise, with beautiful, wide-open spaces, and really nice people. I love it up there, and could go on and on about it, but that will have to wait for another day.
After getting the oil changed in the van, which inevitably took longer than expected, I hit the road North. Once past Orono, the speed limit increased to 75! (a relatively new development). Since people routinely travel at such speeds anyway on the straight, lightly traveled highway, I was a little worried that 75 would mean 85 to a lot of people, but fortunately that didn’t seem to be the case, and I zoomed along, enjoying the bronze and yellow deciduous foliage of late fall scattered amidst the almost black greens of the spruce and fir.
I made the requisite stop at the rest area in Medway.
Shortly after, I crossed the Penobscot, and by then the beautiful, sunny weather I left behind in Bangor had gradually changed to swirling, gray clouds.
I had hoped to get some fabulous views of Mt. Katahdin, a frequent highlight of the trip, so I stopped at the scenic lookout — but with my usual luck, most of the mountain was obscured by low clouds.
The further north I drove, the blacker the sky got—I made it to Houlton, and then continued north on Rte 1, keeping my eyes peeled for likely looking potato stands.
I passed one on the left just outside Houlton that I have stopped at in the past—I kept it in mind for the return (they were advertising Yukon Gold), and continued on to see what else might turn up. I eventually came to a stand I remember visiting last year, Nancy’s Place. It’s usually self-service, but Nancy came out today to visit and comment on the beautiful weather (it was pretty balmy for this late in the month in Monticello, Maine—I guess a few clouds don’t really count, when you figure it could easily be—and often is—snowing). I bought 2 50# bags of spuds, one Superiors (a white potato), and the other Dark Red Norlands.
By this point time was becoming an issue—Margaret needed retrieving at 2:40, back in Bangor, so, in spite of wondering what other interesting varieties might be at another stand a few miles up the road, I turned around and headed back, stopping briefly to pick up some Yukon Golds in Houlton.
I got back on 95 and the skies opened up—that big black cloud just couldn’t hold it any longer, but as I expected, about the time I reached the Penobscot, it cleared back up some—not completely, but it was dry. I would have liked to have taken some pictures of the birch grove and Alder bog, but didn’t think stopping along the roadside with traffic hurtling by at 80 miles an hour was a very smart move, so I resisted the urge.
I made it to the school in time (that 75 mph speed limit certainly helped), and 140 pounds (minus the ones I baked for supper tonight) are stowed down cellar. (Want to know what else we had? Braised cabbage and carrots-freshly picked, yoghurt, and this year’s bacon-just arrived last Monday).