Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Potato, a corruption of the name Batatas, referring originally to the Spanish or Sweet Potato (Batatas edulis), a member of the Convolvulus family, but now far more generally used for Solanum tuberosum, the most valuable species of the Nightshade family. It occurs wild in various parts of South America, and is believed to have been brought to Europe by the Spaniards early in the 16th century, though Raleigh's colonists only brought it from Virginia to Ireland in 1586, and it did not reach Scotland till 1725. Its coarse leaves are lyrately and interruptedly pinnate (q.v.), and it has" a large handsome flower, either pale lavender or white, which is succeeded by a nuculane. The tubers vary in size, shape, and colour; but exhibit their stem character in the buds or "eyes" they bear. The plant is commonly propagated by cuttings of these tubers. Potatoes are about 75 per cent. water, and the rest very largely starch, so that they are by no means highly nutritive. In cultivation the plant has become very subject to the attacks of the parasitic mould Phytophthnra infestans, now generally known as "the potato-disease," which discolours the leaves and spreads down into the tubers. In the hope of obviating this, other species have been experimentally introduced from the moister regions of the Andes, notably S. Maglia, or Darwin's Potato. There are 1J million acres under potatoes in the United Kingdom, producing nearly 6J million tons annually, besides which we import several million cwts. In addition to their use as a vegetable, . potatoes yield much starch for other purposes. It is mixed with flour in bread-making; from it "British arrowroot" and other food substances are prepared; and large quantities are converted into dextrin or British gum, which is used for postage-stamps, envelopes, etc. Much of the "silent spirit" or unflavoured alcohol manufactured on the Continent is prepared from potatoes.