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Grow potatoes now to dig later.

First thing first. Potatoes are not roots. They are only classified as a root vegetable because they grow underground. They are actually a sort of specialized subterranean stem known as a ‘stolon’. Because they are so distended, a more accurate distinction might be ‘tuberous stolon’ or ‘stoloniferous tuber’. Their eyes are buds, which roots lack. Their roots extend from eyes and other roots.

Most cultivated potatoes are of the species Solanum tuberosum. Some of the thousands of cultivars that were developed during the thousands of years that potatoes have been in cultivation are distantly related to other species. Hybridization was a means with which to incorporate desirable characteristics of other species. Potatoes are presently one of the main food crops in the World.

Small potatoes or pieces of potatoes, which are known as ‘seed potatoes’, start to grow in home gardens after the last frost. Potatoes are not grown from actual seed because of the potential for genetic variation. After bloom later in summer, their coarse foliage dies to the ground. Potatoes that grew during the previous season are then ready to get dug. Fruit and all green parts are toxic.

6 thoughts on “Potato

  1. Tony, you say that “fruit and all green parts of the plant are toxic. ”

    I have never grown potatoes because I garden on rock ledge and I wasn’t sure about trying them in fabric pots. So are you saying that potatoes make a small, above ground fruit? I am guessing it might look something like the solanaceous [sp?] (Nightshade) type weed fruits I have seen, maybe?

    Karla

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    1. Yes, the fruit are dark green or black, or maybe reddish. They look just like nightshade fruit, but bigger. I would not recommend growing vegetables, particularly subterranean vegetables, in containment, but I know of several people who have done remarkably well with container gardening of potatoes. Growing them in bags makes them easier to dig.

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  2. It was only after I learned about our native wildflowers in the nightshade family — like silverleaf nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium) — that I learned that potato belongs there, too, and that the potato we eat isn’t the fruit. On the other hand, I’ve always thought of potatoes as root vegetables: probably since my grandma kept them in her root cellar. Another misunderstanding straightened out.

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    1. Well, their physiology will not exclude them from the root cellar. Nor will it disqualify them as a ‘root’ vegetable. Onion, which is a foliar vegetable, is also classified as a root vegetable, just because most of it grows underground.

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