That handsome plant in between my goat horn pepper plant I started in the Spring and my four year old fig tree is a purple potato plant I started about two weeks ago. I did not start it from a “seed” potato or do anything special to it, I just threw a whole purple potato that had a little bud sprouting on it into a container of Miracle-Gro that had already been used for a plant that didn’t survive transplanting. The potato itself came from a bag of potatoes I got from Costco.
Now according to Internet wisdom this non-organic evil corporate potato should not have grown at all – because greedy corporations genetically modify them to be sterile and spray them with inhibitors while worshiping Moloch and plotting world domination. But like so much else on the Internet this is a myth. This particular myth is costing you hundreds if not thousands of dollars over a lifetime.
I bought into this line too, though I should have known better since as a kid in elementary school I sprouted a store bought potato. But a couple of months ago I was throwing out some small red potatoes that were sprouting when I decided to throw caution to the wind and plant two “eyes” in some extra pots I had. Both plants grew and I actually dug one up early because I couldn’t wait to see what was going on under there. The result were astounding! From one piece of potato I was going to throw out I got 11 good sized potatoes – and there were about eight more tiny ones which needed more time. The second plant is starting to die back and is almost ready and I just planted two more.
The problem here is the Internet which is largely a cut and paste affair. I should knowbecause much of the freelance writing I do shows up in dozens of forums and on hundreds of websites (often without attribution) by people who agree with something I said and simply copy the article in it’s entirety and stick it somewhere. With gardening advice things work the same. Whatever the first “hit” on Google says will appear on hundreds or thousands of other websites which in turns makes that information, good or not, seem authoritative.
But think about this – what if you were able to grow 11 or so potatoes from every potato you ever threw out because it was going soft? How much money would you save over a lifetime?
How much money could you save buying on sale potatoes at big boxes rather than “seed” potatoes?
Now I’m not saying the farmer should use a bag of potatoes from the supermarket or that I know more about growing potatoes than anyone else. What I’m saying is that I decided to experiment in my garden and I was rewarded. I didn’t just accept the advice people dole out on the web, I found out if it was true for myself. I decide to test this myth of ungrowable store potatoes and found out it was just a myth.
I suspect that there are lots of similar myths floating around that we accept and some, like this one, can lead people to throwing money away. This is why it’s important to get out in the garden and see what works for yourself. Reading books and articles and blog posts are great ways to start learning what you need to know about growing plants, or hunting, or living off the land but they are always just first steps. Experience is the greatest teacher and you gain experience by trying things out for yourself.
So don’t take my word for it,throw some old potatoes in the dirt and see what happens.