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Singing Gardener: Info on potatoes and Moose Jaw Royale

Plus, Ted whoops it up with fellow musicians

This patch of Russet Burbank potatoes in full bloom was grown by southern Alberta gardener Andrew Moon, shown standing to the right rear.

A Canadian Prairie farmer blend of three grains and a couple of other ingredients are combined in a drink called: Moose Jaw Royale. The beverage is said to mimic appearance and taste of real coffee. Have never tried it myself — yet — but hope to once I’ve assembled all ingredients. The recipe follows further along.

Also, I usually get more inquiries and stories about fruits of the vine, but so far this year, reader focus continues to be more on potatoes rather than tomatoes.

Well the birds ate most of my saskatoons and sour cherries, although I did manage to make stewed cherries and cherry juice and pick some plums. A friend made a cherry pie for me in exchange for cherries he picked. I think it’s called swapping.

A tip of my hat ushers in a welcome bigger than the largest sunflower seed head wherever it may be. It’s out there in someone’s garden and if you think you’ve got it, send along a picture and some details.

Yukon Gold – the posh potato

Thanks to Lucy O. Zinyk from Evansburg, Alta. for her handwritten letter and including copy of an article from Maclean’s magazine May 2, 2016 issue. The article tells about the invention of Yukon Gold potato which was bred 50 years ago by researchers at the University of Guelph in 1966 and first hit the market in 1980. It’s known throughout “all of North America as the champion, the best yellow potato that was ever grown.” A 59-year-old Toronto man “is on a mission to make sure everybody knows it and celebrates this Canadian success story.”

In her letter Lucy writes: “Ted: I read with great interest about the Marilyn potato. The picture of these potatoes reminds me of another yellow potato ‘the German Butter potato.’ I was introduced to it unexpectedly about 20 years ago when my daughter’s mother-in-law went to Germany to visit her family, brought some back to Canada wanting me to plant them. Since it was late summer I put them in a paper bag in my ‘old’ milk fridge and planted them in the spring. They were very tasty and buttery. A few years later I was given Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes catalogue and lo and behold these potatoes were listed as a heritage potato. I sent for the seed and they are the same as the ones my daughter gave me. I look forward to reading your articles, very helpful. (Signed) An old gardener, Lucy.”

German Butterball is described as a late-season potato and seed for same, along with numerous other early, mid-season, late-season and fingerling varieties are available from:

Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes,
Box 70, Bowden, Alta., T0M 0K0
Phone 1-877-224-3939

Next, a thank you note received July 22 via email reads as follows:

“Hello, Ted! I just read your column in Grainews, July 19, 2016 and found the answer to a problem I have been meaning to call you about: ‘Sangre potatoes with tiny wormholes.’ Thank you very much! I shall have to spray my potatoes with Sevin or Ambush. Hopefully that will end the holes. — Eleanor Parker, Three Hills, Alta.”

Also from the Wild Rose province

“Hi Ted, My husband wanted me to send you a photo of his potato patch. It started out as an overgrown mess of a lilac hedge. I made him take out the hedge so I could have a little patio and herb garden. He said he would have to put potatoes in first to condition the soil. This is year four and I haven’t got a patio or herb garden.

Andrew planted 70 hills. The patch is about 8×15 feet. He hasn’t done anything to amend the soil — he plants them in the spring and harvests them in the fall. He likes the Russet Burbank. They yield a good-size potato and the sheep get the small ones. Andrew used to grow potatoes in the vegetable garden that is by a dugout in the pasture. It is the stack yard where the winter feed is stored and so is fenced off. He used to get really good potatoes but they started to get scabby and reduced production even though we alternated planting each year. The potatoes are still quite small when the Felix Leclerc rose is in its glory so I will continue to let Andrew have his potato patch. You can just see the top of my Felix Leclerc rose that I planted the year before last. A neighbour has the Campfire Rose and is quite spectacular.

We have a few chickens in the yard that keep the pests away. I share an uneasy truce as too many can be destructive in the flower beds. The chickens are bantam so are quite small. There are about four or five hens and a rooster down here in the house yard. The barnyard has more, some always migrating to the house yard. Needless to say we have a building formerly known as the car garage that houses the chickens. They scratch around amongst the plants and grass for insects and will eat bugs off of anything. Insect protein is their natural diet.

Andrew is 77 and I am 54 and we have a very active 11-year-old. Coincidentally his parents shared the same age difference and had children younger. Andrew says he is looking forward to your next column (as am I). We really enjoy your column and have learned lots. Take care. — Marina and Andrew Moon from south of Calgary”

Non-curdle scalloped potatoes

Have you ever made scalloped potatoes that curdled? Read on and I’ll share a recipe so they don’t curdle next time. Mashed, baked, fried or scalloped — the beloved spud reigns as Canada’s most popular root crop vegetable. You can modify quantity of ingredients, depending on size of your family. The following makes about four servings:

  • 5 to 6 potatoes [weighing about 1 kg (2 lbs. and a bit)]
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 or more tablespoons of chopped onion
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to suit taste
  • 2 cups hot milk but not boiling

The trick to prevent curdling is to bake the potatoes dry before adding the milk. Smear butter or canola oil inside a baking dish of appropriate size. Wash, peel and thinly slice about 6 cups or so of potatoes. Spread one-half of the potato slices inside the baking dish. Sprinkle with half the flour and season with salt and pepper. Dot with half the butter then place chopped onions on top. Add a second layer with remaining potatoes, flour, seasoning and butter. Bake for 15 minutes in a preheated oven at 180 C (350 F). Remove from oven and carefully stir in the hot milk. Return to oven and bake for up to one hour longer or until potatoes are tender and browned.

Moose Jaw Royale beverage

Hello to all the good folks in Moose Jaw, home of Temple Gardens and the Tunnels of Moose Jaw; both downtown. Another top attraction is Mac the Moose located at Moose Jaw’s Tourism Visitor Information Centre on the Trans-Canada Hwy. No. 1. Mac stands an impressive height of almost 10 metres (32 feet) tall and weighs close to an astounding 9,000 kilos (10 tons). Have no idea how this beverage got its name attached to said city.

Reviving old food and beverage recipes may be good to know about but can be time consuming to prepare. What was popular or out of necessity back in the ’30s when times were tough at least gives us something to think about and reminisce the past once in a while.

This coffee substitute recipe appeared in the third printing of a little booklet called Mock Java back in 1977. The grains are readily grown by Canadian farmers and latter two ingredients are available at some health food and bulk natural food stores. This recipe makes enough for a six-cup pot.

  • 2 tablespoons well-roasted ground rye
  • 1 tablespoon roasted ground oats
  • 1/2 tablespoon roasted ground flax
  • 1/3 tablespoon chicory
  • 2-inch section of dried ground licorice root (optional)

The brew is described as a good, tasty, medium-brown drink substantial on its own. You can also experiment to create a mixture suited to your taste, such as by adding some ordinary ground coffee beans, in which case flax and licorice are deleted.

Ted at the Whoop & Hollar Music Fest

Our nation is filled to the brim with music festivals. Ella Fitzgerald hit the nail on the head when she said, “The only thing better than singing is more singing.” Two fun and entertaining music-filled events were scheduled the same weekend in my area of centre-south Manitoba. The Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival where I appeared took place August 5 on a beautiful acreage just a kilometre west of nationally known Hoop and Holler Bend in the RM of Portage la Prairie, Man. Scores of musicians performed and throngs of music lovers “do-si-doed and whooped at the hoop” well into the night. A huge outdoor stage with canopy was the focal point for ongoing live music. Trees and shrubs provided bountiful shade for the enthusiastic, hand-clapping, spirited audience. It was a magical experience discovered by many for the first time.

Rustling of leaves, walking among flowers along pathways within a tranquil labyrinth and strolling through the winding Cottonwood Trail added to the ambience of the event. The festival’s goal is to revive the spirit of music and dance that once prevailed in the area. Its name is in recognition of historic and lively Hoop & Holler District that existed nearly a century ago. Late-night jam sessions around a bonfire attracted many participants. Some pitched a tent and camped out beneath the stars with other folkies. One spectator expressed it this way. “What a wonderful chance to get out of the city on a lovely evening to enjoy a walk throughout the labyrinth garden, stroll along the Cottonwood Trail and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature blended with music for an entire evening.”

About the author


Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.



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