Digging for Victory, February, About Potatoes.
I think we might usefully consider the potatoes for a few minutes today, because they are probably the most important of all our war-time vegetables. I don’t know how many vitamins potatoes contains, but l do know that they have often kept people, as well as pigs, alive during times of famine, and l know that our hens lay more and bigger eggs when they get a daily ration of boiled potatoes, and that’s enough to convince me that there must be plenty of food value in them….so if we all keep a good stock of them in the store and use them sensibly we shall never starve.
‘Potato Pete’ was a character introduced to encourage the population to eat home grown vegetables.
Popular rhymes were adapted to promote the campaign and even Betty Driver (known by many as Betty Williams from Coronation Street) sang a very successful song to help get the message across. Some of the rhymes included:
Here’s the man who ploughs the fields.
Here’s the girl who lifts up the yield.
Here’s the man who deals with the clamp, so that millions of jaws can chew and champ.
That’s the story and here’s the star,
eat up, ta ta!
Little Jack Horner
Sat in a corner
Eating potato pie.
He took a large bite,
And said with delight
Oh, what a strong boy am I.
Jack Spratt could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean;
So they both ate potatoes
And scraped their platters clean.
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do.
She gave them potatoes instead of some bread,
And the children were happy and very well fed.
This was also a popular poem at the time:
Those who have the will to win,
Cook potatoes in their skin,
Knowing that the sight of peelings,
Deeply hurts Lord Woolton’s feelings.
I bought my seed potatoes about 2 weeks ago and placed them in trays with their ‘eyes’ up. Over the next few weeks these ‘eyes’ should start to sprout, what is called ‘chitting’. Some people say it helps to produce a better crop and, if you remove some of the sprouts from the potato prior to planting, they will produce less but bigger potatoes. This is only useful on maincrop potatoes not on early varieties as you want as many of those as possible. I checked them over yesterday in the greenhouse but no signs of chitting yet. I am only growing earlies and salad types as l don’t have the space yet on my plot for maincrop. I rotavated a spare patch last year in the field but they never came to much. I suppose had it been in wartime we would have starved!