Potato is a type of root vegetable of the plant Solanum Tuberosum. It is a perennial plant that belongs to the nightshade family, Solanaceae. Potatoes originated from modern-day Peru when the Inca Indians first cultivated them around 8,000 to 5,000 B.C. It is a carbohydrate-rich, energy-providing food with little fat.
There are various well-known varieties of potatoes:
- Russet: Thick-skinned, with a light and fluffy centre
- Red: Thin-skinned, stays firm throughout cooking
- Yellow: Buttery flavour with a creamy texture
- White: Thin-skinned with a nutty flavour, stays firm throughout cooking
- Fingerling: Nutty and buttery flavour, stays firm throughout cooking
All of these varieties and some others like purple and petite can be easily grown at home.
Although potatoes are available in your local supermarket all year long, they actually have a season most suitable for them to grow. They require a cool, but frost-free growing season.
- Some farmers prefer planting early maturing potatoes 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date or as soon as the soil can be worked.
- They can survive winter but not frost.
- To avoid frost, consider starting potatoes 0 to 2 weeks after your last spring frost. You may plant earlier but this might damage some crop.
- The temperature of the soil must be ideally 10°C and must not be dry and easy to work.
- Sunlight: The location must have full sunlight at least 6 hours a day
- Soil: Choose cool and well-drained soil that has a temperature between 7°C to 13°C
- Containers: Dig a trench about 6 inches wide and 8 inches deep, tapering the bottom to about 3 inches wide.
- Spacing: Grow potatoes in rows spaced about 3 feet apart
- Fertilizers: Spread and mix in fully-rotted manure or organic compost in the bottom of the trench before planting
- Harvesting: Potatoes are ready to harvest when the foliage begins to die
- Watering: Potatoes need between 1 to 2 inches of water per week
- Hilling: Critical part of growing potatoes is to not let the “Potato part” be exposed to sunlight for too long. Periodically heap some soil around the base of the stem. Typically done 3 to 4 times a season
- Store potatoes at a cool temperature. Warm temperatures attract sprouting and disease.
- The room must have high humidity
- Avoid light to prevent greening
- Potatoes need ventilation. Use perforated bags and never airtight containers.
- Sir Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes to Ireland in 1589 on the 40,000 acres of land near Cork. It took nearly four decades for the potato to spread to the rest of Europe.
- Potatoes are still alive when you buy them! They actively respirate and produce O2 which is why they are never stored in airtight containers.
- Sweet Potatoes are not actually potatoes.