Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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I no longer blog on this site. You can now find me, my general blogs, and the work I am doing researching my forthcoming book on imagination, on my new blog.

6 Jul 2009

5 Amazing Things You Never Knew About Potatoes! *plus* Your Chance to Win a Potato!

spud1Just been digging up my new potatoes with my kids, very enjoyable.  I didn’t grow that many, and it wasn’t the most prolific year’s harvest I ever grew… all I can say is thank heavens we aren’t relying on this year’s crop to last us through until this time next year!  I don’t tend to grow many potatoes, as there are good local organic growers who grow them better, cheaper and have more space to do so than I have.  I do like to grow a few though, as there are few things nicer than digging up your own potatoes on a fine early July afternoon. 

spud2This year I grew them as a way of helping to break up a new bed I made over the winter, a raised bed with terrible clayey soil that I hoped would become more workable via the spuds (jury’s still out on the effectiveness of that one).  Amazing things potatoes.  So, in honour of my somewhat meagre but nevertheless terribly invigorating (and, it must be said, rather delicious) harvest, I though I would present you with five amazing facts about potatoes, one of which is entirely untrue, as we haven’t had a competition at Transition Culture for a while.  You’ll enjoy this, should get you brain working hard on a Monday morning (make a nice change from the usual drivel I post here then…)

So, one of the following facts is nonsense.  Which one?

  • The Aztecs used to measure their units of time by the time it took a potato to cook
  • In the early 1800s, the citizens of Offenburg in Germany actually raised a statue to Sir Frances Drake, potato in hand, in celebration of his introducing the potato to Europe (which, as an aside, actually he probably didn’t actually do)
  • Antoine Parmentier, who only survived being a prisoner of the Prussians during the 7 Years War by eating potatoes, presented a bouquet of potato flowers to King Louis XIV.  Marie Antoinette thought they were pretty and tucked one into her hair
  • Bob Dylan’s song ‘Blowing in the Wind’ was initially about the disease potato blight, the spores of which are spread by the wind.  Dylan was a keen urban gardener, and grew prolific yields on the balcony of his New York apartment. In Jimmy McDonough’s biography of Neil Young, ‘Shakey’, the tale is told of Young visiting Dylan’s apartment to find him in tears, after Dylan returned home from a 2 week tour of the West Coast to find his potato harvest destroyed by blight.
  • Potatoes were the first vegetable grown in space, when they were grown on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1995

The first correct answer pulled out of my hat on Friday will win…… one of my potatoes!  Can’t say fairer than that.  Don’t post answers as comments… send them by email only please to rob (at) by 10am this Friday.  Possibly the most fiendishly difficult competition we have ever run at Transition Culture with almost certainly the least thrilling prize, but I’m sure you will rise to the challenge….

Categories: General

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.


Mark Forskitt
6 Jul 9:13am

Rob, if you want to improve your soil, try Jersualem artichokes. They break up the soil, crowd out the weeds and the massive top growth is excellent on the compost heap. If you want to avoid blight, you could also try growing oca oxalis tuberosum.

Graham Burnett
6 Jul 11:21am

However you will also be growing nothing but Jerusalem artichokes in that bed for the forseeable future! And they taste disgusting…

Christo Markham
6 Jul 12:45pm

Jerusalem artichokes are quite invasive but if they taste disgusting is a question of the right way to prepare them! I agree that they ae great for producing loads of mulch material! Early potatoes usually have less problems with disease that late potatoes.

Ben Brangwyn
6 Jul 1:14pm

Kids love Jerusalem artichokes because they are the most potent fart-fodder known to man.

A staple for “le petomane” in France around the turn of the 19th century, they will test the stitching of all but industrial strength nether garments.

Bernd Ohm
6 Jul 8:03pm

…also, Jerusalem artichokes don’t totally crowd out the weeds, at least not on the “terrible clayey soil” I have too. Lots of thistles raise their ugly heads in between. Potatoes fertilized with chicken manure and a thick mulch cover of straw worked fine for me, left the soil in that loamy condition you’re looking for.

BTW, it was not the Aztecs who measured time like this, they would have used a tomato or some jalapeno pepper…

Greetings from Germany

[…] (Moyen Format) wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptMarie Antoinette thought they were pretty and tucked one into her hair; Bob Dylan’s song ‘Blowing in the Wind’ was initially about the disease potato blight, the spores of which are spread by the wind. Dylan was a keen urban gardener, … […]

7 Jul 6:34am

the very best way to improve your soil with the least manual labor is simply the “lasagna gardening” method so simple!simply layer compost type material interspersed with cardboard,newspaperorganic fertilizer amendments such as greensand,cottonseed meal,fish bonemeal,worm castings,etc.cover with plastic in summer for quicker results.worms will proliferate and soon you will have crumbly dark dirt without the backbreaking digging.good luck!

Jill Robinson
7 Jul 2:51pm

Begging to differ … I think Jerusalem Artichokes are DELICIOUS raw, also mashed. Rumored to be wonderful for helping to stabilize blood sugar on account of their inulin content. My chickens LOVE pecking around under them, though I never have figured out what they find there that isn’t also elsewhere.