How Potatoes Begin: Grow Your Own Chips
Potatoes are tubers produced by the stems of the plant called Solanum tuberosum, which is part of the same family as tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. The plant produces tubers to store nutrients for itself, and to create new plants the next year. However, these tubers are also rather good to eat.
History of PotatoesPeople first grew potatoes in Peru about 6,000 years ago, and the Peruvian Quechua language had over 1,000 words for potatoes and potato varieties. There are about 450 varieties of potatoes grown in the UK.
Chitting the PotatoesPotatoes are grown from seed potatoes, rather than from seeds. Seed potatoes need to have shoots and roots on them before they are planted. This is called ‘chitting’. Put the potatoes (or halved potatoes if it looks like there are a lot of eyes) in the bottom part of an egg box in a light room (but not in direct sunlight) with the end with the most ‘eyes’ at the top. The ‘eyes’ are where the shoots will form, and the egg box just stops the potatoes rolling around.
The Pot for the PotatoesPotatoes can grow in a plastic bucket or a large pot. This must have drainage holes at the bottom to stop the compost getting too soggy. Broken pottery, stones or gravel at the bottom also help any extra water to drain away.
Planting the PotatoesPut a layer of compost, or a mixture of soil and compost, on top of the pottery or stones, and put three potatoes on the compost with the roots down and the shoots up. Cover the potatoes with compost until the shoots are covered.
Potatoes planted in a container in August or early September will be ready for Christmas lunch – but protect them from the frost by gently covering with fleece, old blankets or newspaper at night.