Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Potato mystery

The heat has slowed down our gardening some after I mildly sunstroke myself on the bike on Sunday. Apparently there are exceptions to the general age = wisdom relationship. So I put away the pickled beets and pushed back our raspberry picking trip until later in the week.

With a cooler day on hand yesterday, we returned to the garden. I decided to pull up one of the 12-foot rows of potatoes for some early eating as well as to spread around to the neighbours. Pulling a whole row also facilitates planting some buckwheat for a green manure. After an experiment in the back (where I over seeded), I think we now have a handle on buckwheat seeding density.

The row we pulled were blue caribe. There were seeds I overwintered in the basement. Oddly, on four of the nine plants, at the very bottom of the potato cluster, there was what looked like a russet potato attached to the root system of the blue caribes.

There have never been any potatoes in this bed before and the "brown" potatoes was clearly a part of the purple potato plant (not an interplanting--I was very careful with the seed). I am at a loss for an explanation.

On the upside, the blue caribe are always a heavy yielder with about 5 gallons (25lbs?) from a 12-foot row. If I had let these go longer, the yield would have been higher. Lots of worms in the new bed which was encouraging and there was very little rust. If the other eight potatoes beds yield this heavily, we should be good for the winter.

Out back, we're starting to see some cucumbers (these are always a slow start for me). Ad some of the tomato plants are getting ridiculous with their fruit load. This is a tumbler plant and I have pictures about 1/10th of its growth. We'll have no shortage of cheery tomatoes this month!

Today we'll be pulling out the onions (which have mostly died down). I'll then be re-arranging the beds slightly (fewer, wider rows with a more sensible "entrance") and then we'll plant some buckwheat later on in the week.


  1. The potato mystery is strange! The only possibility I can come up with is that sometimes during regular cell division at the growing tip, plant cells will mutate randomly, and because it is the apical meristem (the growing tip, from which all the rest of the plant cells in that portion of the plant are derived), it changes how the plant grows or what it looks like. I'm not sure, but I think this is more likely to happen in newer (maybe less stable) plant varieties.
    For example, at AU Central, there are a number of the red-leaf variety of choke cherries planted near the fountains. One of these has recently sprouted a green-leaved twig from the tip of one branch.

  2. Interesting; thanks! Weird it would happen on four of nine plants an sonly produce a single non-red. It could well be that the four plants that produced the off-colour potato were all daughters of a single plant last year thus share some sort of genetic error? Now that the potatoes have been cleaned and dried, the brown potatoes look the same as the red, except it lacks the skin pigmentation.

  3. A very superficial search later and it looks like skin colour changes are the most common type of mutation. Still, it would be incredibly coincidental for there to be the same mutation in multiple plants, but as you say, if they are all daughters of the same plant, I suppose they might have a predisposition to colour change.