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    QUICK FACTS Vegetables

 

     
 
 

History

Interesting fact

Popular potato cultivars in New Zealand

Nutritional value

Pests and Diseases
Integrated Garden Management
A final word
           
 
 

Potatoes

Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum subspecies tuberosum) belong to the Solanaceae family that includes other important vegetables, such as tomatoes, eggplants and capsicum peppers, as well as some common weeds including nightshade and tobacco. The potato tubers are actually swollen stems that grow under ground.

History

Potatoes originated in the South American countries of Peru and Bolivia. The earliest record of potatoes in Europe comes from Spain and is dated 1573. By the 17th century it had become an important food crop in Europe especially among the poor.

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Interesting fact

The potato is the fourth most widely grown food plant in the world after wheat, corn and rice. Worldwide 300 million tonnes are produced each year. A field of potatoes produces more calories and protein, more quickly, than any other crop.

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Popular potato cultivars in New Zealand

These potatoes are generally available to home gardeners?

Early maturing cultivars that are usually best dug immature and eaten immediately.

  • Cliffs Kidney: requires fertiliser and water to get the numerous kidney-shaped tubers to a good size.
  • Jersey Benne: as for Cliffs Kidney
  • Liseta: vigorous variety with large, yellow-fleshed tubers.
  • Swift: produces very little top growth but has very early yields of oval, cream-fleshed tubers.

Mid-season cultivars that can be dug immature or left till mature

  • Ilam Hardy: probably the easiest variety to grow but better suited to earlier harvest as it can become misshapen if left for maximum yield.
  • Driver: good eating quality
  • Maris Anchor: best as either an early crop or left to fully mature and has a reputation for good eating.
  • Desiree: a popular general-purpose red-skinned variety.
  • Karaka: a vigorous grower that is prone to tuber cracking under some conditions but has exceptional flavour as a boiled potato.
  • Nadine: needs good growing conditions to yield well; although its lack of taste may not appeal to all, it is attractive and boils well.

Main crop cultivars that are best left to fully mature – suitable for storing

  • Rua: a very late maturing cultivar; probably the best available for long term storage.
  • Moonlight: a recent release that is rapidly increasing in popularity due to heavy yielding ability and good flavour.
  • Red Rascal: a high yielding red-skinned cultivar with good eating quality and medium–long storage.
  • Agria: the most popular yellow-fleshed cultivar with a reputation for good flavour.

 

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Nutritional Value

New Zealanders consume about 60 kg of potatoes per person every year. While potatoes are a primary source of carbohydrate they also contain significant amounts of other minerals and vitamins. Many of these minor elements are in a readily digestible form, which makes their contribution to the diet even more important.

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Pests and Diseases

Like any plant the potato is subject to various pests and diseases, although in New Zealand there are few pests of consequence. Diseases that destroy leaves affect tuber growth by reducing the ability of plants to photosynthesise, while those diseases that damage the stem disrupt the transport of nutrients from the leaf to the tuber. Other diseases infect the tuber causing rots.

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Integrated Garden Management for potatoes

While chemical formulations are available for control of most pests and diseases they are often not the most practical solution in a small garden. In addition, many home gardeners prefer to use non-chemical methods of control. Successful control requires an understanding of the life cycle, environmental requirements and the level of damage caused by the pest or disease. Prevention is usually the first line of defence against pests and diseases, followed by early observation and identification. Integrated Garden Management (IGM) techniques can then be selected and applied in a multi-pronged approach towards control. These include crop rotation, choosing resistant cultivars, altering planting and harvesting dates, sowing clean seed tubers, controlling weeds, managing crops properly, applying sufficient fertiliser and water, utilising biological control agents and applying chemicals.

For more information on integrated garden management and specific pests and diseases, see More Info.

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A final word

The potato is not a humble vegetable as is often quoted. It is a fascinating crop to grow and rewards the grower with a high yielding, nutritious, versatile food. For those with a small garden try growing potatoes in car tires. Start with a couple of tires stacked up and filled with compost. Plant two or three seed tubers and as the plant grows add tires and cover the base of the plant with more compost and soil. Keep up the water and nutrients and see if you can approach the reported yield of over 15 kg of potatoes!

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