Seed Potato: Potato Seed


The potato (Solanum sp) is a flowering plant whose roots produce edible tubers. Duh. Everybody knows that–though the root crop’s existence and widespread northern-hemisphere use only goes back to about the middle of the last millenium.

What fewer people know is that those seldom seen potato flowers produce even more rarely seen potato fruits (3/4 inch diameter) full of seeds–not to be confused with “seed potatoes” which is what the  whole potato is called in the spring before it is sectioned into pieces-with-eyes (stem buds) for planting.

In some places, the actual flower seeds of the potato plant are collected, dried and stored. The next spring, rather than relying on over-wintered whole plants that have a tendency to rot or sprout too early, the seeds can be planted a few weeks earlier than the spud pieces to grow the year’s crop.

Potato breeding necessarily makes use of the saved seed from particularly productive or resistant varieties. Bumblebees do most of the work of pollination and there is some self-pollination as well.

Note how very tomato-like the potato-fruit appears. Read lots more about the history and biology of this lowly, taken-for-granted root crop at Wikipedia.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. This is great that you brought this subject up. I had no idea about it. Thank you and greetings from my cottage garden in Poland,

  2. please send me more info. on your gardening techniques im intrigued to find out more planting for the 1st time