What happens when you take a potato and plant it in the ground? It grows a whole lot more potatoes! Potatoes are one of the world’s most important foods. They are packed full of healthy carbohydrates for energy. And they are the easiest kind of energy food to grow in your own garden. From just one ‘seed’ potato, you can grow enough for a whole family dinner!
‘Early’ potatoes are ready to dig 3 months after you plant them. July is a good time to plant in most parts of New Zealand. In colder climates they are planted in August or September because potato plants are burnt by frost.
What is a potato actually? It’s piece of swollen stem that grows underground, called a ‘tuber’. As far as a plant is concerned, a tuber is a parcel of energy and nutrients, to store the food the plant uses to grow. Lucky for us that energy is good for humans too! Other plants that grow from stem tubers are yams and dahlia flowers. A kumara grows from a root tuber.
TIP: Potato plants can grow without fertiliser but if you feed them well they will produce more new potatoes, especially if you are growing them in containers.
Wash and dry medium sized potatoes then with a sharp knife have an adult help cut a crisscross pattern about two-thirds deep, leaving a space with no cuts at one end (for the head). Place them on an oven dish and brush with butter or oil. Bake at 200°C until golden brown and cooked through (about 40 minutes). Leave them a few minutes to cool and then press gently on the sides to make the square ‘prickles’ stand out. Cut small holes to poke a raisin in for each eye.
Design an experiment to find out what grows the most potatoes. Plant the same number of seed potatoes in the same sized bucket. Feed each bucket with different types of fertilisers, including one that has no fertiliser. Weigh your crops after harvest to discover the difference.
Did you know? Potatoes have eyes! Actually these ‘eyes’ are little buds that grow into roots branches and leaves. Try putting some in an airy place and watch them sprout before you plant them.
Freshly dug potatoes
Potatoe seed chitted and ready to plant
Potatoes growing in a bag.