So where do potatoes come from?

Today was the first day that I took groups to our allotment. The eclipse didn’t have much effect on the cloudy sky but the temperature did drop quite dramatically for the first group. The youngest of the children  went out first. We had planned to look around the site, look at the animals, draw a sketch map, have snack and drink and then test the playground. The best laid plans… We discovered a shed there that said, ‘come and plant your own pots for free.’ It wasn’t on the plan but seemed too good to miss.

The children loved following the instructions and looking at the differences in sunflower, runner bean and broad bean seeds – how do they know what to grow into? Um.. they grow into the same sort of plant that the seeds came from seemed reasonable and satisfied the little ones. My O level biology can’t explain the finer details any more (if it ever could!).

The second group to go were a bit older. The sun had come out by then and it was a very pleasant afternoon. They were keen to pull out weeds and start digging. We could see the bean poles and the dead sweetcorn but the other beds looked like unkempt lawns. They started digging, “Hey, Miss! Someone’s hidden a potato in here, and another and another – why are there potatoes here?”

I could explain that the potatoes had probably been planted last year and that they grow underground – “Really? Underground? Wow!” They were fascinated by the numbers of potatoes that they could find in such a small space, they were also fascinated by the variation in size. They did find it almost unbelievable that you could plant 1 potato and get so many more from it.

We looked at the potatoes that they picked up that were already starting to shoot. We explained it was starting to grow into another potato plant. They looked amazed. We separated out the ones that were shooting and said that we’d plant those when the soil was prepared. They wanted to take the others home to eat; no problem.

We got back to school one youngster jumped out of the bus and saw dad, “Dad, Dad, we’ve got potatoes, like real ones but from the ground!” Even some of the older ones were keen to take home “their” potatoes to see if they taste like real ones! I hope they do.

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So where do potatoes come from?

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