Worms and Flowers

Successfully Managing the Colorado Potato Beetle

Posted in How To, Pests by Lzyjo on April 30, 2009

I love growing potatoes. What I don’t love are the pests that come with them. My archenemy in this department is the leaf-eating Colorado Potato Beetle (CPB). Not only are the beetles gut-wrenchingly disgusting, they spread diseases as they move from plant to plant. With diligence these pesky bugs can be controlled without toxic chemicals.

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The key to controlling the CPB is understanding its life cycle. There are three stages in the maturation of the beetle, eggs, larvae, and adults, they can killed during any one of these phases. Adults are easy to identify due to their distinctive striped exoskeleton. (Sorry, I dusted them up trying to get them in the shot.)

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Adults can be found feeding on the leaves and also near the base of the potato plant, where they emerge from their underground pupation chambers.

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Black beetle poop on the leaves are a tell-tale sign of beetle activity.

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Adults lay masses of bright orange colored eggs on the underside of the leaves. These should be wiped off and smooshed (I like to use gloves for this,) before they hatch anywhere from 4-10 days. If the eggs hatch, reddish brown larvae with black spots will emerge. These larvae will eat their fill of  leaves before retreating to underground chambers where they will complete the pupation process, emerging a few weeks later as full grown adults.

The best time to perform search and destroy missions is the early morning when the beetles are still sluggish from the cooler nighttime temperatures. I like to use the bottom of a stick to squish them. Okay, I don’t like it. It’s a matter of necessity. Be careful these guys will try to play dead, so make sure to squish ’em good!

For more information on the life cycle of the Colorado Potato Beetle see this article provided by a cooperative between the Universities of Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado State, and Montana State.

Bintje Heirloom Potato

Posted in Potatoes by Lzyjo on December 27, 2008

I just harvested two pounds of Bintje potatoes from a few of my plants. I’ve been robbing the plants and from what I’ve tasted I can proclaim this to be the best potato I have ever had. It surely is the cream of the crop.

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Bintje is an early yellow-fleshed heirloom potato developed in the early 1900’s by a Dutch botanist and school master who named this potato after his best pupil Miss. Bintje (pronounced Benjee) Jansma. I found a delightful background story for this potato on the blog Vegetables of Interest.

Living in America, one would not know this variety is the most widely grown yellow-fleshed variety in the world. It’s a shame too because the texture is unbelievable! In comparison, it makes the old standby Russet Burbank seem like a crude impostor. Both the vendor Ronniger’s Potato Farm and various cooking sites recommend this flavorful high-starch variety for excellent roasted potatoes and oven fries. It’s making my hungry just talking about it!

As soon as I cut into the Bintjes I recognized the smooth silky texture that was even more mouthwatering after cooking. I made some food using a mixture of Russets and a few Bintjes it was painfully obvious which was which, the Russet was grainy and almost crumbled apart, while the Bintje retained its form, at the same time, remaining soft and creamy.

I had a few difficulties with pests and I think the July planting succumbed a little to the excessive heat and drought. I look forward to planting them again next Spring in more temperate weather.

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