According to the Farmer’s Almanac the word, “hoedown” comes from the dance based on the movements done when hoeing corn and potatoes. (Think about it.) First used in the early 1800s, the term came to encompass the party that celebrated the yearly harvest.
Our family had its own hoedown after the delightful experience of digging for potatoes at Peter Pumpkin Patch in Petaluma, CA. We had initially visited Peter, along with some of our other favorite Bay Area pumpkin farms on a glorious fall day. We’d gone in search of cheerful orange pumpkins, and perhaps a gourd or two, along with the delights of visiting farms in fall, with their corn mazes and haunted barns. But when the surprise opportunity presented itself to dig for potatoes, we dug.
If you haven’t dug for potatoes, it’s a lot of fun and highly rewarding. Potatoes grow quite close to the earth’s surface, and you have to be careful not to stab one as you dig into the dirt. They grow very profusely on each vine, making it easy for people of any age to unearth a whole bounty in one motion, each one staring up like a treasure.
It was only after I took this picture that I realized that my family had inadvertently re-enacted Jean-François Millet‘s 1850s painting, The Gleaners.
Peter Pumpkin Patch offers five varieties of potatoes: Yukon Golds, Russets, Blues, Reds, and German Butterballs, along with stunning pumpkins in an extremely picturesque spot amid gently rolling land. The day we visited, there were other families digging for potatoes, searching for pumpkins, and posing their small children in the fields.
At the weigh-in, we each guessed how many pounds of potatoes we had. Anna was closest — we had harvested 13 pounds.
At home, they were washed, salted and roasted in olive oil. Though they didn’t last long, they were appreciated profoundly, as we knew the earth they had come from and had dug for them ourselves. We hope to visit there and dig for potatoes again soon.
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Heed the Call of the Pumpkin at these Great Bay Area Pumpkin Farms
Unearthing Gifts of the Earth: Farmer’s Almanac visits a Maine potato harvest
23 Things to be Happy About in October
Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman