Potatoes (Solamum tuberosum) are American native plants of the nightshade family with their distinctive flowers in white, pink, red, blue or purple with bright yellow stamens.
After flowering small green fruits appear resembling little tomatoes. These are full of solanine, a toxic substance.
Other Names papa, patata, Irish potato, tater, praties
History and Folklore
The potato is an American root vegetable that was an important crop in Peru and Chile up to 10,000 years ago.
It was first introduced into Europe in the 1500s and features strongly in the history of both Ireland and the United States due to the Great Potato Famine of the mid-1800s which reduced the population of Ireland by up to a quarter through starvation, disease and emigration and the US saw a huge influx of immigration from Ireland.
Prepare the ground well before planting potatoes by digging deep to loosen soil and get rid of rocks and weeds.
To grow potatoes from seed, cut up the fruits and soak overnight in water. The good seeds will sink to the bottom. These can be planted in a sunny location in the spring.
To grow potatoes from tubers or “seed potatoes” allow the potatoes to sit in a sunny spot until they sprout. Cut the potato apart with a sprouting eye on each piece and plant these in the ground.
To increase yields, mound dirt up around the plant as it grows to encourage tuber production.
A great way to grow potatoes in a small space or on a patio is to use a bag as demonstrated in this tutorial.
Make sure to keep the tubers covered with soil until it’s time to harvest to prevent them turning green, bitter and poisonous.
Harvesting & Storage
Harvest the potatoes for storage in the fall after the plant turns yellow and dies back but before a hard frost. New potatoes can be dug up as soon as tubers start to form.
These early potatoes will not have a thick enough skin for long storage but taste delicious.
Potatoes store well in the dark at temperatures between 45 and 50 degrees. Cold storage will alter the flavor of potatoes and should be avoided. Do not store in plastic bags. Paper or cloth bags will allow moisture to evaporate.
Potatoes can be carved into poppets for sympathetic magick. In kitchen magick it represents stability and the basic necessities of life.
Blue potatoes can be added to a magical meal to bring in the energy of the color blue.
Potato juice, especially from redskin potatoes is said to be good for ulcers and other issues related to stomach acidity as well as gallstones. It is also said to be a good liver tonic.
Slices of raw potato can be placed on skin inflammations and burns for quick relief. Mix shredded raw potato with olive oil to relieve dry, chapped skin.
Peel off any green skin and cut away any shoots before eating potatoes.
Potatoes are good raw, boiled, mashed, fried or baked.
Add potatoes to a meal for their grounding effect when it is needed. Be sure to cut off all the eyes and green parts. Boiling destroys solanine, but baking does not.