This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Within the past year, tubers, collected in Arizona in the fall of 1882, have been sent out to various applicants by Mr. J. G. Lemmon, of Oakland, California. We planted seven of these little potatoes in ordinary garden soil, and gave them ordinary culture. One failed to grow; from the others, one hundred and sixty-seven tubers were produced. They averaged no larger than those planted, although several of them were about an inch in diameter. They are simply diminutives of the cultivated potato. All were flattened, globular, and had relatively large whitish spots. On exposure to the air they turn color in a few hours, and become of a dull ashen color. The skin is about twice as thick as in the domesticated varieties, and immediately beneath it is a colored layer, deep purple by reflected light, but when placed under the microscope and viewed as a transparent object, it is a clear violet. The cells and starch grains are not appreciably different from those parts in the cultivated tubers. It was the intention to test their edibility, but they changed color almost as quickly as the cut surface of an apple when exposed to air and light, and having delayed a day or two, we found them fully as bitter and unpleasant as our ordinary potatoes when they have become green by prolonged exposure to light.
When cooked immediately after digging they are probably sweet and palatable, as they are often used by the Indians.
It is not at all likely that any immediate good result to the farmer will follow his cultivation of these native potatoes. Some persons appear to be under the impression that the first crop will show a considerable change in the size and in the quantity of the product, and that cultivation a second year will fix and increase these desirable qualities still more, and so on, until within a few years they will become valuable for cultivation. But such quick results cannot be inferred from what we know of the origin of our cultivated plants, and our experiment fails to bear out the idea. That marked variations from the normal condition of a plant may appear spontaneously in some of its progeny is probably true; tut such cases are not common, considering the number of individual plants under cultivation, and their occurence cannot be indicated beforehand. Hence, for the practical cultivator, these potatoes have as yet no value, but under the hands of the experimenter they may in time be so improved as to be worthy of general cultivation. This result may be secured either by crossing them with varieties now in cultivation, or, possibly, by developing some natural variations through prolonged and careful culture under various conditions.
We shall endeavor to continue the experiment the coming year.
Agricultural College, Pa.