One thing I miss about Jackson is the vegetable gardens my dad and I used to raise. One of the most unpredictable things we would plant every year were potatoes. We raised red Pontiac potatoes one year that were the size of baseballs and softballs, and we could have filled a dump truck with them. The very next year, in the same ground and using the same seed potatoes and the same fertilizer, we barely got our seed back. We never could figure out the how and why. It seemed like the better the plants looked, the fewer the potatoes they would produce. Conversely, the worse the plants looked, the better the potatoes.  

Human history would be a totally different tale if it were not for this incredible vegetable. The Inca Indians in Peru were the first to cultivate potatoes around 5,000 years ago. The Spanish Conquistadors conquered Peru in the 1500’s and brought potatoes back to Europe. They were introduced to Ireland in 1589 on the 40,000 acres of land near Cork. We could say the rest is history; we Irish love our taters, that is for certain.  

Potatoes arrived in the American colonies in 1621. The Governor of Bermuda sent two large cedar chests containing potatoes and other vegetables to the Governor of Virginia at Jamestown.

My uncle ran a restaurant for over 30 years and would often contemplate the miraculous potato. He would say: “I can’t think of another vegetable with as much diversity and flavor changes than the potato.” Think about the many different ways we can make potatoes and how differently they taste -- fried potatoes, fried potatoes with onions, fried potatoes and turnips, hashbrowns, tater-tots, baked, mashed, roasted, potato salad, Au Gratin, grilled, scalloped, chips of a million different methods and flavors. Likewise, are the French fries and potato cakes. This list could go on forever.

I think my two favorite ways to eat potatoes are as follows: I remember at a very young age noticing my mother would spoon herself out some fried potatoes before they were totally done, about half-way cooked. She is the only one in the world that I have ever known to do this. To this day, I prefer my fried potatoes half done. The flavor is incredibly increased.  The second method is to take a bed of coals from a campfire and cover potatoes with aluminum foil if you have it, but the foil is not required. Cover the potatoes with coals and bake until fluffy. Stuff them with butter, sour cream, salt and pepper. Oh, my goodness, there is no substitute for the flavor of a potato baked like that. Give it a shot sometime, and you will thank me.   

 

God bless you all, RHM.