How many potatoes have I peeled? Measured by vegetable jackets we doff, would a life heap of potato skins greater than all other vegetables combined betray age, rural childhood? Do ponders of what to eat salivate anticipation over a plain boiled potato – of course not. Texture aside, try describing a plain boiled potato.
Growing up, unless a rare spaghetti night broke the monotony, dinner included a pot of potatoes – 7 people, 7 potatoes plus “one for the pot”. Skinning potatoes was easy, summoning root cellar courage was another matter. Lurking beneath the kitchen floor, it existed in another dimension. Ten steps down to audible protests of a wood plank door, passage into cellar’s domain called for swift adherence to entry protocol – one deep breath to mitigate cellar’s earthy assault on senses, focused determination to locate light bulb’s string, followed by fixation on tidy mason jar rows of peaches and tomatoes. Glass caged peach optimism derailed packed earth floor and walls long enough to snatch potatoes and run. For a few weeks each summer “new potatoes” escaped the cellar, thin skinned delicacies boiled intact with a handful of fresh mint.
I love potatoes. Perfect recipient for butter or gravy, enthusiastic sponge for dinner plate juices. Mashed, scalloped, shredded, fried, stewed, caked, salad – a food staple champion. History found potatoes in Bolivia and Peru, cultivated in the Andes for up to 10,000 years. Apparently the Inca thought slices placed on broken bones would speed healing, carried in pocket prevented rheumatism and measured time in potato units – time it took to cook potatoes. In 1537 Spanish conquistadors introduced potatoes to the known world. Per person North Americans eat 110 pounds of potatoes a year, double that consumption for residents of Europe. Ireland was introduced to potatoes when Queen Elizabeth 1 gave Sir Walter Raleigh 40,000 acres of land to grow tobacco and potatoes. Prior to the Great Famine of 1845-1852, average Irish families consumed 10 pounds of potatoes a day. Close to a million people starved to death, another million emigrated during an outbreak of crop failing potato blight – the potato credited with Ireland’s population falling by 25%. Below a source of little known potato facts –
In primary school most of us cut potatoes in half, carving designs to make stamps. Did you know potato water cleans silver – after cooking remove potatoes, immerse tarnished silver in potato water for an hour. Remove rust from cast iron pans or baking sheets – rub with a cut potato, acids in the flesh wipe it away. Last night I found instruction on growing rose bushes from cuttings inserted into potatoes –