The message on my phone showed my sister’s fine haul of freshly harvested, hefty potatoes. The kind of bounteous beauties that, once seen, banish the prospect of having anything else for dinner.

Which is nice for her of course, but envy-inducing for one such as me.

Not that I am without garden yields. An unusually mild October has brought tomatoes, gherkins and french beans, along with a few precious apples from a young, but promising, tree. My homegrown spuds, however, were small in number and have long since been eaten. And yet, in my heart of potato hearts, I know that, somewhere out there, in the garden, spuds remain.

Wherefore art thou, my Spud?

In the matter of digging potatoes, there are, as I see it, two fundamental laws:

  1. You will invariably skewer at least one tuber with the garden fork.
  2. In spite of one’s best efforts to locate every last spud, you will miss one or several. And you will know this because, the following spring, you will see the sprouts of your stray potatoes pushing up through the soil. These are known in the potato trade as volunteers.

It is as if to say that these potatoes volunteer their tuberous goodness without the need for deliberate planting, though, often as not, they are removed because the gardener has other plans for that patch of soil.

For my part, unearthing a volunteer can be a source of passing regret, especially if what was missed was a good, dinner-sized, spud. But, sometimes, I nurture that volunteer, so that one missed dinner fills several future dinner plates.

And so I put my harvest envy aside and look forward to the garden’s promise of good things to come.