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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Once Lowly Fare,
Potatoes Enjoy Popularity

by Delbert Trew

Delbert Trew
Down through time, the potato has been known as poor-people or working-man's food. Discovered in Peru in 1532, the tubers were first carried to Europe as a botanical curiosity. Tests showed the potato might be a possible economical source of food for peasants.
English landlords began growing the vegetable as a cheap staple for their tenants and by the early 1700s, the crop became important throughout Europe especially Ireland and Scotland. Not only is the potato nutritious, it's easy to grow in almost all climates and produces abundantly. Most important, it needs no process of manufacture. Just dig, store and eat as needed.

The Trews have always enjoyed potatoes cooked in any fashion. We certainly fit the description of poor and working class as the depression and dust bowl kept us in bad financial condition until it finally started raining in the late 1930s.


Most farm families became potato raising experts. First, came soil preparation as potato hills need drainage. Rotten hay around the plants is preferred by some housewives as it allows them to rob new potatoes without disturbing the plant. Many old-timers considered new potatoes and poke salad a remedy for clearing the body of winter doldrums - whatever that means.

Planting and digging dates were determined by the signs of the moon and shown in "The Farmer's Almanac." It was a cardinal sin not to obey these time-tested rules. You young people will be surprised to learn raising was a complicated process. Here are some things to do.

First, at potato digging time, select the very best specimens with the most eyes, (potato plants sprout from the eyes), and bury them against the back wall of the root cellar to be eaten only if the family is hungry. Second, sort out all small, damaged or spotted specimens and eat them immediately so they don't spoil. Bury the rest in dry sand in the root cellar so they don't touch.

At planting time in the early spring, slice the seed potatoes into chunks making sure two eyes are showing on each chunk. Shake lime over the chunks to protect from insects. Plant the chunks before they dry out. There is still argument of whether to place the eyes down or up in the row. Then merely cover them with dirt. The plant is a beautiful lush green color.


My mother always peeled potatoes, cooking the peelings in coarse cornbread along with table scraps to feed the greyhounds. Grandma Trew scrubbed, peeled and cooked the peelings separately then poured the peeling juice into a fruit jar for soup stock.

Most old cowboys and bachelor cooks sliced potatoes and onions into a hot skillet to make greasy potatoes. I've never attended a church gathering that didn't have scalloped potatoes to offer. Mashed potatoes is my favorite dish with baked potatoes a close second. On a cold day, potato soup laced with onions and black pepper will knock the chill in a hurry.

I seriously doubt my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren could survive today without french fries and ketchup. Long live the potato, you have been a good dependable friend.

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" November 15 , 2004 column

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