A pot full of potatoes

Carla Allen
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I never planned it that way, but it happened. I’ve got pots full of potatoes instead of flowers.

Pots full of potatoes will be providing a feast of spuds this fall.Carla Allen photo

Each year I plant summer bulbs like crocosmia, acidenthera and dahlias in potting soil dug from a side bed where it was dumped the previous fall.

Basically the soil is recycled year after year, with the old stuff put on the bottom and new soil amended with compost and manure on top.

But also, in that side bed storage area, I’ve grown potatoes. There are always a few small spuds missed during harvest.

This year I must have scooped up some soil containing those because I’ve got potatoes taking over my summer bulbs.

It’s not a bad thing. Those baby potatoes are going to taste pretty good when I dump them out of those pots.

Potatoes have a fascinating history. 
Long ago, a present of potatoes was given to Queen Elizabeth's cooks who judiciously discarded the lumpy looking tubers and served her highness a dish of boiled stems and leaves. This of course, promptly made everyone quite ill and potatoes were banned henceforth from the court. 

Potatoes have had their share of "bad press" over the years. Presbyterian ministers in Scotland forbade their flock from consuming this vegetable on the grounds that it was not mentioned in the Bible. But worse was yet to come. In the late nineteenth century, a Reverend Richard Sewall "accused the potato of leading to wantonness in housewives, since its preparation required little time and effort, thus leaving female hands idle and primed to do the Devil's work." I wonder what this minister would think of frozen dinners? 

The rich saw the lowly potato as an able food for the poor, armies, and prisons. Potatoes produce five-fold greater crop per area than either wheat or corn. By the late seventeenth century the Irish had adopted the potato as their own with an average peasant family of six consuming 252 pounds each week along with 40 pounds of oatmeal, a bit of milk and the occasional salt herring. 

The Irish Potato famine of 1846-48 caused the deaths of 11/2 million people with the same number being forced to emigrate to the United States, England and Australia.

This disaster drove home the importance of diversity and led to the development of new blight resistant potatoes. Today there are more than 5,000 varieties available with new ones popping out of laboratories each day. 
The potato is a staple worth protecting. One potato contains about ½ the recommended daily amount of Vitamin C. They contain more potassium than bananas, approximately 100 calories each and practically no sodium ...unless you eat them as potato chips. 

Geographic location: Scotland, United States, England Australia

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