The German Butterball Potato
Well, this is not exactly a seed. Landreth sells “seed potatoes”. A “seed potato” is a potato that has been harvested young and then allowed to “rest” for a number of weeks in a facility at a fairly constant temperature around 40 degrees. “Seed potatoes” can be tiny or full-size depending on the variety and when the farmer could get into his fields to harvest. The Spanish ‘discovered’ potatoes as they explored the western coast of South America in the early 1500s. They brought potatoes to Spain and the plant quickly spread throughout all of Europe. Sir Walter Raleigh is often credited with introducing the potato into Ireland, and, though unsubstantiated, this may be true. One of the funniest, if not enchanting, horticultural legends is a story about Sir Walter Raleigh and the potato. Legend has it that Sir Walter, enamored of all the produce he found in North America, invited Queen Elizabeth I to his estate at Youghal in County Cork for a celebratory dinner featuring all these exotic New World fruits and vegetables. The star of the dinner was to be the potato. Sir Walter, in his hurried enthusiasm, dumped a load of potatoes with their greens still attached in the kitchen of his estate, but forgot to tell his cooks which part of the plant to prepare. The cook, unfamiliar with potatoes, cut the tubers off and threw them away and cooked the leaves and stems of the potato plant. The leaves and stems hold a toxic substance which can make someone quite ill with a stomach ailment. The legend says that Queen Elizabeth I came to visit her favorite courtier and good friend and that Sir Walter regaled her and her court with a lavish dinner. Unfortunately, immediately after the dinner, everyone became ill, terribly ill and the potato was banned from English dinner tables for many years. In America, potatoes did not begin to become popular until 1811 when the Landreth Seed Company introduced a white fleshed potato. Until this introduction, potatoes were largely yellow skinned and yellow fleshed and considered to be a poor people’s food. The introduction of an ‘exotic potato’ with white flesh made the potato more acceptable to middle class Americans. As Landreth was building its potato collection several years ago, we consulted an old and wise and very experienced Colorado potato farmer. He provided us with plenty of great advice and some recommended varieties. Of all the potatoes he talked about, the one that was clearly his favorite was German Butterball.
(Note, while I plant this potato every year and love it dearly, I cannot actually order potatoes from Landreth or any other seed company outside of Alaska due to shipping restraints. Alaska does not allow seed potatoes from the rest of the country to be brought in by growers, in order to avoid introducing Potato Blight to the state.)
- My Favorite Seed Catalogs (alaskakitchenandgarden.wordpress.com)
- Chitting Seed Potatoes (thegardensmallholder.wordpress.com)