Mary's Veggie Garden

May 9, 2010

How do Potatoes Grow?

Filed under: Gardening,Potatoes,Vegetables — marysveggiegarden @ 8:11 am

Most of us have seen stored potatoes starting to grow. Fleshy sprouts emerge from the eyes. As the sprouts lengthen, the potato shrivels, becoming soft and wrinkled. The potato flesh is transforming into potato sprout before our eyes. However, this is not quite how potatoes grow if planted.

Sprouted fingerling potatoes - left, grown in the garden; right grown in the basement.

Last week I noticed some potato plants in the garden where the fiingerling potatoes grew last year. This is a sure sign I missed some potatoes during harvest. Because the plants in last years potato patch were infected by late blight, and I’d even found a couple infected potatoes, I dug up  these volunteers.  The late blight pathogen only survives on living tissue, so its possible that these potatoes could have carried the infection through the winter. Having experienced the devastation of late blight once, I don’t want it again.

Now we can compare the potato which overwintered in the garden and is now growing, with the potato which grew in a brown paper bag in the basement. The obvious differences are roots and leaves. The potato from the garden has grown roots which drink moisture from the soil to feed the growing sprouts, leaving the potato firm and juicy. Once the sprout broke through the soil, leaves formed, using sunlight to feed the expanding plant. In contrast the potato grown in the bag grew its sprouts at the expense of the potato, leaving it wrinkled and limp. When I removed the sprouts from the garden potato, I discovered that the roots grow from the base of the sprout, not from the potato.

Sprouted fingerlings - left, grown in basement, right, grown in garden.

What happened to these potatoes? The ones from the basement were too limp to prepare for cooking; they went into the trash. The fingerlings from the garden had no signs of blight. I removed & discarded the sprouts, scrubbed up the potatoes, and ate them for supper.


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