Appalachia Through My Eyes Gardening

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Tater Digging Time

potatoes being dug from the ground and placed in baskets

It’s tater digging time in Robbinsville, NC, and throughout Appalachia, for folks who planted taters way back in the spring of the year.

It’s been a good long while since we planted potatoes, but I have fond memories of helping Granny and Pap dig their taters. I’d tell Granny “We’re like Little House on the Prairie storing up food for the winter.” Granny would always smile and agree with me.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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  • Reply
    September 14, 2019 at 9:43 am

    I planted a a few sweet potatoes for the first time, and I don’t know if I’ll get any because the weather was so wet I planted them late, and then the weather stayed wet – took them a while to start growing, but then they grewsome vines so we’ll see. I’m hoping to leave them in the ground as long as possible.

  • Reply
    September 11, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    When I must miss the Blind pig I have to get on late when the subject is so interesting. Mom graveled potatoes every year, as she had learned, and her Mother before her had learned. Not my favorite dish, but my sis still talks about how good my Mother’s creamed new potatoes were. I tried, but never could get that mountain flavor she cooked into them. About the time we had new potatoes she always had wilted lettuce and onions. We never ate a lot of meat, and to this day I am not much of a fan of meat nor is my sis. You love what you get used to growing up
    I always loved to get the children and some of my company to help me dig potatoes. You would have thought those children were digging for gold when those potatoes rolled out. Most of my company was family from Appalachia, and seemed to enjoy even though most had not kept up the tradition of a backyard garden.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 11, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    The other day I was watching Stars of the Fifties on youtube and a fellow told Carl Smith about a Dollar and a Penny. It went something like this: A Dollar and a Penny was walking down the street one day and the Dollar said to the Penny, You ain’t no good, you’re so small and ignorant. The Penny replied, “that may be true, but I go to Church on Sunday and I bet more of me gets put in the Offering Plate than you do.” …Ken

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 11, 2019 at 12:15 pm

    I used to have a nice garden, about 5 or 6 years ago, up at my house I hurt my back working on my mountain water. I went back through a Laurel thicket and landed on my back. I don’t know long I was out, but when I woke up, my little dog was wrapped around my head, whining. Bless his heart, Whisky had never seen me in this shape before.

    My sister-in-law, Linda (Harold’s wife after he died) helped me plant potatoes (she died with Breast Cancer a couple years after Harold did and she was a Good Friend.) She would put at least 3 taters to a hill and at diggin’ time, we had lots of potatoes. She came from Va. or West Va., and that’s the way her Daddy did it. She liked me and she was like the Sister I never had.

    Harold met her in Florida when he was in the Air Force. They got married and he brought her up to meet the folks. I had a 7 and a half H.P. Wizard motor and we rented a boat at King’s Boat Dock in Fontana. We went up the lake on the Nantahala Prong and I was driving the boat and fighting Dirt Dobbers. Linda raised up and said “those Mud Masons are a problem, aren’t they?” That was the first time me and Harold had heard them called that, so we laughed. Those were Good times. …Ken

  • Reply
    Agnes Farr
    September 11, 2019 at 11:48 am

    The best and most practical way to
    rid garden of potato bugs is to turn
    Bantu chickens loose in the tater
    patch. Works every time.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    September 11, 2019 at 11:23 am

    I have to admit now that when it was tater picken time I hid. I hated that job but loved to eat them all winter. The other job I hated was sitting on a stool in the cold storage room and moving taters layer by layer to the other side of the bin to pick any that may be starting to rot.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 11, 2019 at 10:00 am

    It’s been quite a while since we planted potatoes. The last ones we planted did well!. Such fun turning over the ground with a spade or pitchfork to reveal the taters and size. Fun to see and find the biggest’un!

    I also love to “grapple” a few young taters in the young summer days of tater vine growth! When near the same time, the first green peas are picked and shelled. Mercy, that’s so good, fresh green peas, some spring onions and new taters cooked together…My, my I can taste them right this minute. Those little new taters take nothing more that a bit of a hand rub/scrub under running water to take the very thin skin off…Mostly, I would just get the dirt off and any vine root that might be attached to the little fellers and leave the very light colored skin…

    My Mom and Granny used to say…If you had taters, onions, and maybe carrots, cornmeal and buttermilk…one would never starve. Have you ever heard…”They were getting” so poor, they were down to their last tater!”
    Guess it’s true…we ate many a supper of tater soup seasoned with onions and a bit of chopped carrot for color and fried cornbread. Still one of my favorites…today I add chopped broccoli, maybe drop in a few green peas and top with a bit of shredded cheese..he, he
    Thanks Tipper for a great tater memory!

  • Reply
    September 11, 2019 at 9:00 am

    The deer ate the tops off my tater vines a few months ago. I didn’t bother digging them since they hadn’t been in the ground long enough to ‘make theirself’, as Mom would say. When I cleaned up the garden and my brother-in-law bush hogged, I was surprised to find some good sized taters. Some were small, about the size Kroger sells in a one pound bag for $2.99.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    September 11, 2019 at 9:00 am

    I don’t know if this is true or a joke, but supposedly a man ordered a guaranteed tater bug killer. What he got was two small blocks of wood with instructions. Instructions read, ” place potato bug on one piece of wood and smash with other block”. Dad always dusted his with sevin dust the best I remember. He would take an old stocking and partially fill it with dust and bob it up and down over the plants. I never liked using any kind of dust in my garden and picked them off. Maybe I’ll order me a guaranteed tater bug killer.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    September 11, 2019 at 8:19 am

    I haven’t raised any taters in about ten years and the thing I miss the most is new taters. The new ones I buy are never as good as home raised. My Father-In-Law always raised them and my Wife said, ” she loved digging taters, it was like a treasure in every hill”.

  • Reply
    Aaron Patterson
    September 11, 2019 at 7:43 am

    Remember your parents always made you dig around in the loose soil for every last tater and you were sure none were left behind. But if it rained in the next couple of days you could spot them up and down the rows shining like little beacons!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 11, 2019 at 7:35 am

    I still have two short rows of Red Pontiac potatoes to dig. They have resprouted and are over a foot high but I will still just dig them as we need them. I like to have ‘new’ potatoes at Thanksgiving and I usually do not have killing frost here until about then. I dig them with a potato fork and can get most of them without damage.

    I grow them mostly now for the new potatoes early and late. It is a bit marginal for me to grow them between the room they take up and also costs. I have reduced the amount I plant but don’t plan to quit altogether.

  • Reply
    carol harrison
    September 11, 2019 at 7:34 am

    My mother in law used to “rob” the potato hill when potatoes were growing. She lifted the hill top just enough to reach in and get a few potatoes out of each hill. The potatoes were about the size of a ping pong ball. In a half a pail of water and a coke bottle she washed and skinned those potatoes and cooked them. They were the best tasting, and with a helping of fresh peas provided a good meal.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      September 11, 2019 at 11:24 am

      We call that “grabbling” for new taters. It’s kinda like reaching under a hen to get an egg. You tunnel through the soil until you find a one then ease it out. The tater plant won’t even know you took it.
      You take them in the house, wash them up good and put them in a pot to boil. When they are just tender, which ain’t long for new taters, you stir in a slurry of milk and flour. when it thickens you add a little salt and a lot black pepper and you have food fit for a king.

  • Reply
    Ginger H.
    September 11, 2019 at 7:15 am


    The secret to digging taters is to get folks to show up and help!! lol

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 11, 2019 at 6:39 am

    There is an art to digging taters. You want to dig from the outside of the hill (of taters) down and in. If you don’t do it correctly you hack up the tater and it’s ruined for storage. That’s what my grandmother taught me. She also took any hacked taters in the house washed and pealed them then put them in a quart jars covering them with water. This preserved the hacked tater till they were eaten. My Grandmother was a thrifty woman, she didn’t waste anything.
    Life was not easy in my Grandmothers time, if they didn’t get the food properly preserved…they didn’t have anything to eat in the winter.

  • Reply
    September 11, 2019 at 5:58 am

    I remember helping Daddy dig taters, we had an Old H john Deere tractor we rigged with a horse-drawn middle buster, we’d swap out keeping it in the middle of the tater row while the other drove the tractor, worked really well, you’d have to go slow, but that Old tractor never knew that middle buster was behind it, and it would flip those taters to the top of the ground, fresh for the taking.

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