Homo Sapiens have long appreciated this fantastic plant. Culinary experts from all over the world boil, fry, bake potatoes. They make dumplings, potato pancakes, zeppelins, fries, pies. Now, the Internet knows 3,275 potato recipes! And this figure is only growing. Folk medicine has wide use of potatoes:
- A compress made from raw potatoes treats burns,
- The juice helps in the treatment of gastritis and stomach ulcers.
- The fresh and smooth skin of potatoes works as a good skin mask. Also, the mash of potatoes for lunch with butter and milk is great for restoring skin health.
Let’s take a closer look at this beautiful vegetable or fruit! We will know later in this article.
Botanical description of potatoes
Our “second bread.” Novice gardeners often ask the question: “To which family does the potatoes belong? “We answer- potatoes are cultural “relatives” of the nightshade family. Potatoes are a perennial tuberous plant cultivated in agriculture annually. By the type of culinary processing, it belongs to the group of vegetables. Most often propagated by tubers, less often by sprouts and cuttings. Breeders grow seedlings from seeds. The fruits of the nightshade are eaten, such as red tomatoes or purple eggplants. Potato berries, small green balls are poisonous. They contain a large amount of the alkaloid solanine, niacin. These substances help the plant to protect itself from pests and diseases. The tubers are ordinary buds that only ripen underground. They are the reservoir of nutrients like starch, which is necessary for the successful life of the plant.
Description of the fetus
The fruit of the potato is called a berry. It has the size of a walnut. The juicy berry consists of two sections with a lot of seeds.
- The top layer is a dense, juicy fabric that protects the seeds from damage and environmental effects. In the process of ripening, it changes color from green to purple or even black.
- The middle layer is juicy pulp. With insufficient watering, this layer gradually dries up due to the heat.
- Internal partition is where the seeds are attached.
- One berry ripens from 100 to 300 small, round, and flattened seeds. The size and number of grains depending on the variety.
Sometimes berries do not form on the bushes :
- The plant is grown under unsuitable conditions. Fertilized soil and abundant watering are essential for potatoes.
- Pests eat up the leaves and buds of plants.
- Gardeners pick off inflorescences. It helps to form numerous large tubers.
What is a tuber
The tuber is a modified round-shaped shoot, a kind of a thickening of the stem. The potatoes are part of an extensive root system. It acts as a storage of nutrients, provides support and nutrition for future shoots. The tubers help the plants get a fix in the soil.
What are potato stolons? Stolon is an elongated lateral shoot. The tuber is a shortened shoot that grows on the stolen.
Internal and external structure
The potato tuber has a peculiar appearance. A reasonably large adult tuber is juicy (80% water), dense, and covered with skin(epidermis).
The external structure of the tuber is as follows:
- On a smooth surface, there are buds from which stems sprout.
- There are also lentils on the surface, small dots due to which gas exchange occurs.
The thickness of the peel depends on the variety, weather conditions, care, application of fertilizers.
- Phosphate fertilizers thicken the epidermis.
- Potash makes the rind thin.
The tops are cut shortly before the harvest, and the tubers are left in dry soil to thicken the skin. Such vegetables are stored better and longer, without losing their beneficial qualities.
The internal structure of the potato tuber consists of the bark, vascular bundles, and pith.
Remember! The fruit of a potato is a berry, and a tuber of a potato is a modified shoot.
The biological characteristics of development depend primarily on the variety. On average, a complete harvest requires 90 days. Abundant tuber ovary is characterized by flowering (sometimes it is absent). Gradually, carbohydrates and proteins (starch) accumulate in young potato tubers. The share of starch reaches 18-20% of the total mass. At the end of the growing season, the tops darken and gradually dry out. So it’s time to harvest. People often dug up young potatoes, and they are considered a “delicacy.” They are consumed together with a delicate peel. The ripening period of early and mid-early harvest is 60 days from the day of planting.
Stages of development
The 1st stage of development is the emergence of seedlings 20-25 days after planting. The higher the soil temperature, the faster the process goes. During this period, they don’t water the field until the first stems with leaves appear. The plant does not require moisture. Sandy, loamy soils are more suitable for growing this vegetable. The planting depth is 10-15 cm. For small tubers, the depth is chosen less by 2-5 cm.
Stage 2-4: bud emergence, flowering, maximum tuber growth. During this period, potatoes are actively formed. Their total number may be about 30 pieces, but only half will fully ripen at best.
Nurturing care is especially important at this stage.
- Abundant (but not excessive) watering,
- fertilizing with mineral and organic fertilizers,
- regular loosening of the soil and removal of weeds.
The first time they spud small bushes with a height of 5-7 cm. Second hilling in 2-3 weeks. It is the main period for the formation of the future harvest. It lasts for 40-60 days. Pests and various diseases at this stage directly affect the yield.
5th stage is the withering away of top bushes, harvesting, and storage. Tubers are dug 90-100 days after planting. That’s when the gardeners remove the tops. If there is a suspicion of the presence of any pathogen, farmers kill them outside the garden. Everything is thoroughly dried indoors or outdoors. Then comes calibration, transportation, and storage.
Ground parts of the plant
The bush grows up to 1 m, depending on the variety. The stem is ribbed, the leaf of the potato is dark green, consists of several lobes. The location of the potato leaves is along the entire length of the stem, like wing-like appendages. On the underside of the leaves, relief veins are visible, which coincides with the color of the tuber. Each variety has a different number and shape of leaves. The veins on the leaves are in the form of a grid, like in most dicotyledonous plants. The cells of the leaf skin are alive, different in size, and transparent, which allows sunlight to penetrate the leaf.
Flowers, fruits, and general appearance of potatoes
The flowers are pink, white, or purple, clustered in an inflorescence at the top of the stem. The fruit ripens by autumn. It is poisonous and not edible.
Seed propagation of potatoes is not a very popular method, but it has its advantages. As a rule, potatoes are the vegetable that takes up the most space in the garden. So it isn’t easy to ensure regular crop rotation. The land depletes, the quality of the planting material deteriorates. Even replacing the tubers with a new species does not help.
- The seeds from the store have been pre-processed and have a solid immunity to diseases.
- Seeds are much cheaper than sown tubers.
- The shelf life of seeds is 4-6 years.
Note! When seeds propagate potatoes, renew the planting material after 6-7 years.
In gardening practice, the primary method of planting potatoes is tubers. Such reproduction is called vegetative. They choose medium-sized fruits up to 100 grams. Important conditions include:
- healthy appearance,
- several eyes.
Sprouting potatoes is helpful to get the harvest faster. This stage is called vernalization. It is carried out 30-40 days before planting in the ground. In the same period, diseases and pests treatment takes place.
Large tubers get cut into several parts. Pruning should be done not earlier than two days before planting in the ground. Then comes the sprinkling of the cuts with activated carbon or ash.
Potatoes love sunny areas. In the shade, the bushes stretch out. The tubers will turn out to be small.
Chemical composition and nutritional value
The chemical composition of potatoes is a mini-periodic table. Potassium is present in large quantities. It is helpful for the heart, blood vessels, and nervous system. The maximum is contained in the pulp under the peel and in the peel itself. Therefore, baked potatoes with peels or boiled in “uniforms” are the most useful.
Fun Fact- you don’t get fat from potatoes! Potato dishes are low in calories but only boiled or baked. It would be best if you consumed them no more than once a day without butter and sour cream, meat, or fish. It is helpful to pour the finished dish with unrefined vegetable oil or sprinkle it with natural vinegar.
We all know that potatoes grow underground, like some other foods harvested under an umbrella from vegetables such as onions, radishes, and the like. But does he, as they say, have what it takes to qualify as a vegetable?
We all know that potatoes, a food product with an indefinite spherical shape (we won’t call it a fruit or a vegetable until we figure out which one is for sure!), is an essential part of some delicacies around the world. You will never find some cuisines altogether avoiding potatoes. And even if they did, it would be pretty stupid! But it does enjoy immense popularity all over the world due to its extensive production. Its high carbohydrate content feeds most of the world.
But whether the potato is a fruit or a vegetable is like the chicken or egg family of questions. So I’m afraid that the only way to define this humble and popular food item’s actual class is by using human definitions of certain foods.
What we know: In common parlance, people accept it widely, albeit unconsciously, that fruit is something that has a sweet and sour taste and a juicy texture. Fruits should be something to make juice from! Another commonly used definition is that if it can taste like ice cream, it is a fruit because there is fruit-flavored ice cream, but we haven’t seen (or at least I haven’t seen) broccoli-flavored ice cream!
What is it? According to the definition, a fruit has seeds that contribute to the reproduction of this plant in the future. Biologists say something that can be very difficult to understand. Still, the essence of the definition is that the fruit is part of a flowering plant, and specific flower tissues are responsible for the formation of ovaries. So if a thing comes from a flowering plant and has seeds, it is safe to assume that it is a fruit; since a potato has no seeds, we can firmly conclude that it is by no means a fruit.
Can you name a vegetable out of which we can make ice cream or juice? Well, carrots are an exciting exception! But generally speaking, if a food product is not a fruit but falls on a tree, it is a vegetable. That still does not solve our problem, like potatoes under a tree!
Vegetables are edible food on plants. So if it has anything to do with a plant, can be eaten, and has no genitals, it is a vegetable. So leaves, buds, and seeds also fall into this category.
And the roots? Yes, even the roots. But because of the vague definition, potatoes fall into an informal vegetable subcategory known as root vegetables or tuberous vegetables. They qualify as vegetables because they are edible woody foods without ovaries.
Now that you know learn how to make great potato dishes. So I think I have now put the question firmly. Yes, potatoes are a vegetable.