Playing a Potato Expert on TV with Sean Conway

Playing a Potato Expert on TV with Sean Conway

I spent yesterday on the set of Cultivating Life, a television show about reconnecting with the land. No, no big sound-stage; no wardrobe and make-up trailers (which might have helped curtail my copious sweating). I was on the property belonging to the host, Sean Conway. It's a gorgeous nursery-turned-oasis in Tiverton, Rhode Island, where the show is filmed. I was Sean's guest for an episode about heirloom potatoes.

When I wasn't needed on set I got to wander the land, meeting the chickens and ducks, gawking at Sean's collection of props in one of the old greenhouses, and taking lots of notes on how he does things in his vegetable garden. Here are some highlights.

Sean with one of the baby ducks born two days prior, and the nicely coiffed leader of the team of ducks that followed me around on my tour.

Sean has some very tall staked tomatoes growing in the greenhouse. Given all the rain this year, I think these guys were pretty happy in their protected environment. I love that cascade of black cherry tomatoes.

A picnic table with built-in checker board from a previous show, left. On the right, a spider-web trellis, perhaps too gorgeous to grow anything on it!

Sean's vegetable garden is impeccable. He measures rainfall in this simple glass cup. On the right, notice how the lettuce is growing underneath the trellised tomatoes? How smart.

Here's the dish I developed for the show: three kinds of heirloom potatoes cut and dealt like playing cards, dotted with herbs and Gorgonzola and roasted until soft in the middle and crispy on the edges. I survived using my lethal Japanese mandoline on film. Once that part was over I was incredibly relieved.

Waxing poetic about heirloom potato varieties and what the heck to do with them all.

What a nice man... I had a blast working with Sean, who seemed more and more like an old friend as the day wore on.

You'll have to wait until next year to watch the episode — sweaty pits, near misses on the mandoline and all — but you can count on plenty of potato coverage from The Kitchn while you wait.

Potato Recipes:
Potato, Squash and Goat Cheese Gratin
Potato, Red Pepper and Feta Frittata
Pommes Anna
Kale and Potato Gratin
Mixed New Potato Salad with Sweet Basil and Shallots

Potato Tidbits:
Why Do Peeled Potatoes Turn Pink?
Sixteen Kinds of Potatoes
How to Pick a Potato
The Best Way to Store Potatoes
Growing Potatoes in a Bag
Secrets of Awesome Mashed Potatoes

Check out the Cultivating Life website for gardening and cooking tips, craft inspiration, and episode guides. Watch the Cultivating Life television show on WGN America

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