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  • Jacob O'Brien

Reflections on Potato Planting

Botany was never something I expected to enjoy and nobody else expected it either. I never gave a single thought about plants. The only reason I took botany was because it was something different. However now after harvesting my potatoes I can confidently say that I enjoy it immensely. I like it for the same reason I like writing, as once there was a blank page now physical words take up that space creating a story that has never existed before. Similarly where once a simple patch of dirt existed now there is a physical plant which you can touch and even eat where before there was nothing. It's like some sort of miraculous alchemy.

However it was a long and frustrating road to get to that point. I said I would be interested in growing Solanum Tuberosum at the very beginning of the year but first I had to research how to plant potatoes, what type were the best for cooking and look on Amazon for the right pots/bags, all without even getting a potato yet! Eventually I found myself asking Chef Dave and also receiving help from Mr. Westbrook. Once I got my potatoes all I had to do was leave them in a cold dark space for a few weeks until the eyes sprouted and I'd be good to go.

Unfortunately however I forgot to check on them until it was winter, at that point many of them had mold and all of them were frozen even though the eyes had sprouted. I brought them back to to salvage them but over the weekend they thawed out into this gross moldy goop and only one could be saved. I planted this one; however, it did not sprout. I accepted trying to grow them as a failure and moved on though not without much frustration and anger.

For Botany class I began to read The Martian because the main character, Mark Watney, figures out how to plant crops on Mars so he can survive. The crop just so happened to be potatoes as well, ironically enough. Eventually as I was reading Mr. Maragliano received some more potatoes from Mr. Westbrook and we planted them again. I was not that thrilled about it because I doubted it would work but I had also stopped caring about my failure the first time so I was not dreading it. My reaction to the news was a resounding meh. Surprisingly, Mr. Maragliano one day told me that they had actually started sprouting in the greenhouse and I was pleasantly surprised when I went to check on them. Every time we went into the greenhouse to do something, which was semi frequent, the plants got taller and taller, shocking me because I never thought something I did would be that much of a success. When the lock down came I was told to take it home with me, which I did. At my house they continued to grow as we watered it. However a few weeks ago it began to yellow and wilt no matter how often it was watered. I once again dismissed the project as a failure and only went through the motions after that. However my Dad told me that he had read up on potatoes and the plant was supposed to wilt and die once the potatoes were formed fully. I was so excited by this and even more so when we dumped the dirt out of the pot to see 4 full potatoes and 5 small ones. As I am writing this I am preparing to eat them. It might not be surviving Mars but to myself it feels that way.


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