More on Potatoes.
Submitted by Don Hagist
Having read the article on growing potatoes in the recent Spy, I thought you might like to run a period description of how to grow them. This is from Adam’s Luxury and Eve’s Cookery; or, the Kitchen-Garden display’d. (London, 1744).
THERE are several Sorts of Potatoes cultivated for the use of the Kitchen, as the White or Kidney Potatoe, the tough and smooth-coated Red Potatoe. All these Sorts are propagated by planting of their Roots in the Spring; the Method of doing which is various, and according to the Nature of the Soil you are to plant them in; for if your Soil is wet and heavy, you must plant them thus:
Your Ground having been digged some time before, strain your Line across it, and dig out a Trench a Foot or fourteen Inches wide, and about eight or ten Inches deep, shaking into the Trench some old, dry Thatch, the Bottoms and Tops of a Hay-Stack, or any other such like Stuff. Then being provided with Potatoes, which, were I to chuse, should not be small ones, as is by some recommended, but the larger ones cut into two or three Pieces; for there having longer Eyes or Buds to them, will produce stronger Stalks and of consequence larger Roots: Being, I say, provided with a sufficient quantity of these Sorts, drop them into the Trench at a Foot apart upon the old Thatch, or whatever else you have put into the Trench, afterward shaking some more of the same strawy Stuff over them; and then strain your Line again at a Foot and a half from the last, and throw out another Trench, covering the first lightly with the Earth you take out of this, and so proceed in like manner till you have finished your Piece, carrying the Earth you digg’d out of the first Trench to fill up the last.
But if your Ground be dry, poor, shallow, stony Ground, after having digged it, strain your Line across, and draw a Drill with a Hoe three or four Inches deep, putting therein a little well-rotted Dung; then drop your Potatoes at a Foot apart, covering them over with some of the same Earth that came out of the Drill, and so continue drawing Drills at a Foot apart till you have finished your Piece; after which cover your Ground all over with long strawy Dung an Inch or two thick, which will preserve the Ground moist. But if your Ground is good rich Ground, neither very stiff nor over dry, you need do nothing more than dig it well in the Winter, in order to mellow it; and at the proper Time with a Setting-stick dibble in your Potatoes the same Distance as you did the others, where they will produce a good Crop. In October or November when the frostly Weather begins to come on, you must take care to cover them with some Fern, Straw, or any thing what you can best get; or else dig them up and lay them in dry Sand in a House, where they will keep good till the Middle or End of March, and Sometimes longer.