History and status of the Potato
The potato is a perennial plant from the nightshade family. The potato vegetable is a starchy tuber that is dug up and eaten. It is one of the most popular vegetables on earth because of its survivability, ease of preservation, production potential and ease in planting. The potato originated in the lower Andes and currently is grown in the Americas, China, India, Australia and Europe.
Today there are countless varieties of potatoes that come in many different colors. Potatoes typically come in brown, yellow, pink, red, and blue. Some skins look black also. Potatoes are classified for cooking use according to moisture content, and are classified as mashing, boiling, baking, roasting or salad. These various classifications describe cooking use, with mashing having the highest moisture content with no fibers and boiling indicating the lowest moisture content with the ability to retain shape even after boiling. The potato has earned its place in Western cooking because it is a highly practical and highly productive crop. In your garden, you have the option of growing varieties of potatoes that are not “production variety” potatoes. Most production produce holds that status because it can be processed and provided to customers without harm while passing through the supply chain. Common varieties on potatoes are:
· Yellow Finn – a small potato with yellow flesh
· Russet – a large brown potato with white flesh
· Red Gold – red skinned, with yellow inside
· Yukon – yellow skin with yellow inside
· Kerr’s Pink – a Scottish boiling potato
· Maris Piper – a general purpose potato
· Golden Wonder – Frying and chip potato
Today there are more than 4,200 varieties of potatoes. You can grow non-production potatoes in your garden and sample flavors that are NOT available in your supermarket. Small potatoes are called new potatoes or fingerlings. In your garden you have the option to grow non-production varieties of potatoes that have unfamiliar flavors and we would suggest some of the following flavorful potatoes:
· Russian Banana
· Klondike Rose
· Blue Mac
· Cowhorn, and
Potato Growing Needs
Potatoes are generally grown in rows under mounds and require medium watering. The potato plant itself may even produce fruit. The fruit is not required for successful cultivation and may be saved to produce seeds for planting later. Many varieties are produced by planting one or two seeds of the vegetable with about 12 inches of space between each plant. Potatoes are in contention with other plants for underground space for its tubers. Ground that is excessively full of roots in unsuitable for potatoes. A higher level of tillage is required for potatoes because they are tubers. Sometimes tilling 2 or 3 times is necessary for cultivating potatoes. From your garden, you will pull your potatoes from the soil as new potatoes, with a curing process to thicken the skin. Because of this your potatoes will probably be more flavorful.
Soft and dry rot will most likely infect potatoes that have been wounded while underground. Both of these conditions result from bacteria eating the potato away from the inside out. Potato scab is a growth on the surface of the potato and can be removed by boiling. Scab is a simple barnacle-like growth on the potato that results in an abnormal outer texture. It does not affect the food value of the potato or its nutrition, and can be easily removed by the home gardener.
Insect pests include the potato beetle and root nematode. These pests infect the potato plant and can easily be avoided by rotating crops in affected areas.