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One Potato Creates an Expanding Universe

August 18, 2023

It can happen.  It was the daily activity of a bumblebee searching the flowers of the horse nettle at my farm. Nearby my potato patch resided filled with heirloom red, white and blue selections all in full flower. The flowers are remarkably similar. There was no goal or thought of a potato fruit or berry. But low and behold, there was several fruits lying on the ground covered in the sawdust mulch in the fall while I was harvesting.

It was an awakening. I had never heard of this. I soon found out that each potato seed contains the genetic equivalent of a super computer drawing information back several generations of traits long ago created prior to domestication. This is the secret life of a potato. The True Potato Seed or TPS is alive and well in a few cultivars today including Zolushka and Clancy.  But for the most part to let a potato create an ever expanding population of diversity is not done.  I plant seedling trees at my farm. I should plant seedling potatoes.

For me it is a joy just to let a potato do its thing and continue the journey of its evolutionary nature while adapting to my climate in southwestern Michigan. I find it both inspiring and a joy to dig potatoes every fall because I have no idea what I will find under the ground. It is mystery waiting to be solved with my carefully placed potato fork.  I am not trying to create a variety or a cultivar and certainly I will never make a dent into the new varietal selection market. That is for the elite and privileged spuds and people.  But it is possible to use the population as a spring board for a more perennial and resilient potato.  A potato that never gets blight or viral infections or shrugs off the ever present potato beetles. Starting with the true seed, you end up skipping all of that.  In the meantime, I will patiently wait for fall.  The potatoes with no name are delicious. There are no bad potatoes. There can’t be. Its woven into human culture now. We need them more than ever.



Kenneth Asmus

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