The View from Puncheon Creek: TATER-HOLING TIME

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When I was growing up, store-bought food was limited to a few basic items, the mainstays of which consisted of flour, meal, sugar, lard, pinto beans and coffee.

Most everything else was raised at home. Corn, beans, cabbage, potatoes, onions, turnips, mustard, tomatoes, and on and on. Besides the family garden, hogs were raised for their meat, along with chickens for both meat and eggs and most everyone had a home milk cow. Throughout the summer and fall food would be eaten fresh as it came in and the excess would be preserved in one manner or another. Squash, cushaw, and such would be dried, as would fall beans. Fruits, vegetables, greens, and even meat would be canned so that when the cold winter came there would be sufficient food for the family until the crops came in, again, next year. 

As I look at the hillsides as they lose their leafy cover and take on the brown of winter, I am reminded of those days when my grandfather would hole-up his potatoes. He picked a dry bank with good drainage and dug a four-foot-deep by four-foot-wide by six-foot-long hole in the ground, as much as you would dig a grave. He would line the bottom of this with leaves and straw to prepare it to receive the potatoes. He would plow out the potatoes with his horse and once this was done he would hook the horse to the sled and haul the potatoes to the potato hole. Once the potatoes had dried and the dirt fell off of them, they were gently placed in the hole to keep from bruising them. The potatoes were not washed as the dirt helped preserve and flavor them. Once the potatoes were in the hole, straw was placed over top of them and about a foot of dirt was mounded up over the top of the hole. Then as potatoes were needed you could dig a small hole into the potatoes much like a rabbit hole and reach your arm in and get out the potatoes as you needed them. After a couple of months in the hole the potatoes would take on a delicious sweetness that you cannot get from store bought potatoes. If you have never tasted fried potatoes taken from the potato hole and you ever get a chance to you are in for a treat. There is simply no comparison between the holed-up potatoes that have taken on the sugary sweetness and the somewhat tasteless variety we buy out of the store.