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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Potatoes

Rebecca has suggested that October be considered potato month in the blogosphere. I'll play along with a few facts about potatoes, mostly from my fallible memory, and also using the Wikipedia article on the subject.

The part of the potato that we eat is an underground stem, or tuber. The "eyes" of potatoes are buds. Potatoes may be easily cloned, by cutting the tuber in pieces. Each piece with an eye, when planted under the ground, can produce a new plant. Although potatoes do have flowers, fruit, and seed, these are not much used in propagating potatoes, except by potato breeders. Potato tubers are an excellent source of starch. They also provide some minerals and vitamin C, and the starch contains complex carbohydrates, which are considered important in the diet.

Potatoes were first domesticated in the Andes mountains of South America, which is one reason that there is no mention of them in the Bible -- they are a New World plant. They have been spread world-wide. China grows more potatoes than any other country. Potatoes, in the region where I live, are sometimes called Irish potatoes, perhaps to distinguish them from sweet potatoes, which are not closely related -- they belong to a different family, and are roots, not stems. Potatoes were widely grown in Ireland -- perhaps too widely grown. Growing too much of any one crop, or monoculturing, can be an invitation to insect pests and plant diseases, which can spread easily under such circumstances. (There's a lesson in that, for example with wheat in some parts of North America.) There was a serious famine in Ireland, called the Irish Potato Famine, which, among other things, contributed to the migration of many Irish people to the New World.

Potatoes are a member of the Nightshade family, as are tomatoes, eggplants, nightshades, petunias, and other plants. The flowers of all these have similar characteristics. (Here's a photo of potato flowers) Many of these plants have poisonous parts. Potato fruit may be poisonous. When I was a boy, my parents believed that parts of a potato tuber exposed to the sun during growth (which could be told by the green color) were poisonous. I don't know if that is true.

Potatoes, in my view, are one of God's provisions for humans. Will there be french fries in heaven? scalloped or baked potatoes? I don't know. Perhaps so.

I expect to be traveling for several days, beginning in the near future, and don't expect to post much, or be able to read or comment on your work much.

Thanks for reading.

3 comments:

Don Bosch (evaneco.com) said...

Martin,
Great to see you're still at it! I've been updating the links at my new site, and have included yours. Hope you'll drop by when you get a chance.
Grace and peace,
Don Bosch
The Evangelical Ecologist Blog
evaneco.com
evaneco@gmail.com

clemens said...

Potatoes - somehow I always have the image of the Inca army marching along those marvellous roads toting bags and bags of them to fuel their conquests.

Last night I had baked potatoes with yogurt and chives, and tonight potatoe and tempeh stew. Great stuff.

Around here in Lykesboro, way down in the south, Irish potatoes are called "Arsh potatoes".

Glad you liked Stone Bridge.

Clemens

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks.

Yes, I know about "Arsh" or "I'ish" potatoes. These refer, of course, to "Irish" potatoes, as opposed to sweet potatoes.