ALBANY PARK — Back in July, I said I'd consider this gardening season a success if I managed to harvest more than two potatoes.
Today I declare victory six times over.
That's right, if you can count something the size of a quarter as a potato — and I say you can — I dug up a whopping dozen spuds.
Potato harvest, all 12 of 'em. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]
So why wasn't I ecstatic?
Maybe because I lied, lied, lied about my expectations.
I didn't want two potatoes, or 12. I wanted, oh, 50 or 60.
I planted four seed potatoes, one of them divided into two, for a total of five. I mounded mulch and straw something like three feet high.
My understanding of everything I read was the higher the mound, the greater the yield of potatoes. I didn't think it was too much to ask of each seedling to produce 10 to 15 offspring.
As Dave and I dismantled the wire "cage" encircling the potato vines, I envisioned delving into the straw and excavating layer after layer of spuds, all the way to rock bottom.
There was no Yukon Gold lurking in the straw. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]
Oh, we unearthed something, all right.
The straw was riddled with creepy crawlers from pill bugs to spiders to garden centipedes, the stuff of which nightmares and lifelong phobias are made. And I know worms are friendly critters, but that doesn't make them any less slimy.
Even Dave was sufficiently grossed out to ask for a pair of gloves.
We each grabbed a stake and started poking at the straw, from a distance, hoping that as it tumbled down a host of potatoes would be revealed. Nope, just more bugs, plus some sort of mold growing on the mulch.
So that was fun. I can't tell you how excited I was to stick my hands into the teeming soil and root around for anything that wasn't squishy.
It didn't take long to hit paydirt.
A flash of purple signaled that I'd struck tater. I cleared the earth around the nubbin, believing it to be the tip of a larger iceberg. Turned out, it was the iceberg.
First potato strike! [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]
That's OK, I told myself.
According to the fictional tale I was mentally spinning, Tater Tot was the equivalent of the first gold nugget that led to the rush of 1849. Surely there was a mother lode of riches lurking below.
And there was. Not a lode, per se, but several potatoes that approximated what one might see in a store.
More potatoes! [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]
But with each new find, my initial sense of glee gave way to greed. There's a headiness that comes with every discovery, a jolt of endorphins or adrenaline or some other chemical that feels like electric happiness. Who wouldn't want to experience that again and again and again?
One potato, two potato, three potato, four. Five potato, six potato, seven potato ... I wanted more.
More. There had to be more.
First with our hands and then more thoroughly with a trowel, Dave and I sifted through every inch of dirt that could conceivably harbor a potato. Our haul maxed out at an even dozen.
Honestly, I might have been content with these results if the following photos hadn't come across my Facebook feed the very day I harvested my spuds.
My spud envy knows no bounds. [Facebook/The Yarden]
On the left are "volunteer" potatoes, meaning they weren't purposely planted. In other words, the gardener wasn't even trying. On the right, the author shared that she still had twice as many to dig up. "It's like a treasure hunt!"
It mattered not one whit that the individual in question founded Peterson Garden Project (Hi, LaManda, love you!) and literally wrote the book on gardening that I consult whenever I realize I have no idea what I'm doing. My spud envy knows no bounds.
I wanted a s--- ton of potatoes. I wanted a mountain of taters so tall I could roll around in it like Scrooge McDuck on a pile of gold. I wanted a treasure hunt that lasted hours, not minutes.
Because, lest you forget, I've been growing these things since May. All those months of build-up and poof, it was over faster than a frenzied Christmas morning gift exchange.
Was it worth the effort?
I decided to quantify the endeavor.
I had spent $4 on the seed potatoes, $10 on straw and another $10 on hardware cloth (aka, wire mesh), for a total of $24.
My harvest weighed in at one-pound, 14.5 ounces.
Crunching the numbers, that amounted to $12.63 per pound.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average retail price for potatoes in July 2015 was 67 cents per pound.
Well, whaddya know. I do excel at something. I grew the world's most expensive potatoes.
Update: What do you do with the world's most expensive potatoes? You make the world's most expensive potato salad.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: