Salty Sam’s Fun Blog for Children

Number 272

The Potato


Hello Everyone



Do you ever make potato people like the man in the picture?


When you make potato people, just for a change your mum might let you play with your food!


The Rocky Bay chip shop normally uses up lots of potatoes every week (when it is open of course) – bags and bags of them – and l expect you use potatoes in your family as well.  


lt is hard to imagine life without potatoes now, but in fact they have only been in our lives for just over 400 years and chip shops have been around for about 160 of those years.  lt might surprise you that chips shops have been around for such a long time.


Potatoes were first brought to Europe from the Americas by Spanish sailors who had been collecting silver in Peru in the Andes Mountains. 


They needed to bring back stores of food to eat on the ship on their way home. 


Potatoes came to Britain somewhere about 1590.  lt is widely thought that Sir Francis Drake or Walter Raleigh first brought some back amongst the other treasures they had collected on their travels.  But it may be more likely that they were actually brought back to the Netherlands and were distributed around Europe from there.


They were cultivated in South America for probably about 10,000 years before that.


Because potatoes stored well they were grown all over Europe in the vegetable patches of peasants.  The large fields were only used for growing grain crops.  But in the late 1700s this changed when a change in the climate meant that potatoes would grow in the colder weather when other crops would not. 


Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France, liked them so much she wore potato blooms in her hair, they say. 


Potatoes then became an important staple food in northern Europe in the years that followed and became more popular than turnips and other root crops that had been grown before.


The same thing happened in Russia in 1838-39 when grain failure persuaded landowners to grow potato crops on any spare, unused land that they had. 


Potatoes were cheaper than bread and just as nutritious and filling. 


They also needed less preparation to eat because they didn’t need to be milled like grain to be made into flour for making bread. 


But grain was easier to store, and so grain and potato crops were both grown.


The people that moved to big cities in the lndustrial Revolution grew potatoes in their back yards.  These crops sustained the workers who had to work very hard in the factories.


The potato was also taken to the USA, Africa and China where it is still an important crop in some regions.


But then a plant disease called potato blight hit the European potato crops in the 1840s and began destroying them.  This partly happened because there were so few varieties of potatoes and none of them could resist the disease.  The problem lasted for the whole of the 1800s.


Sir Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes to lreland in 1589. 


By 1845, one third of all arable land in lreland was used to grow potatoes. 


Families would exist on a diet of mostly potatoes and milk which came from a small patch of land by their cottage that they would tend, and so when the blight reached lreland in that year, people began to starve.  lnstead of finding healthy potatoes in their gardens to dig up, they would find potatoes that had turned into black, smelly mush.


The people were very poor and had nothing else to eat. 


About one million people died in the lrish Potato Famine.  Some people died because they got ill and their weakened bodies could not fight any disease that they contracted.  A further million lrish people emigrated to get away from the problem.  They moved to Britain, Canada, the United States and other places.


Today, we can grow potato crops that are resistant to blight.  But another problem hit the potato crops in the late 19th century when the Colorado beetle somehow came to Europe and by the middle of the 20th century there were so many of them that farmers had to turn to the first artificial pesticide to try and kill them off.


Now, potatoes are grown in huge fields and by people in their vegetable patches.  lt is the fourth largest crop in the world.


Well, all this talk of food has made me hungry, so l think l will go and fry us up some chips!



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And see you again next Fun Friday!


Love and kisses



Salty Sam





Bill and Bob’s Joke of the Weekjokejoke


Bob: Did you hear that Farmer Jenkins has invented a new crop? 


Bill: Really?


Bob: Yes, he drove a steam roller over his potato field to create a crop of instant mash potato.



Salty Sam © Christina Sinclair 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of material from this blog without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited.

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Picture Gallery


How potatoes grow


Colorado beetle


Colorado beetle larvae

CC BY-SA 3.0,









So of course now you know about the history of the potato I expect you will want to grow some yourself.

Potatoes, like tomatoes and peas, are one of those crops that are unbelievably tasty when they are picked fresh compared to the vegetables that you buy in the shops.

And just like the people from history in my post, you can grow them in a very small patch of land or even a container like a dustbin or very large trug.  If you have a container that has a split or hole in it and can’t be used for what you bought it for in the first place, like carrying water, it will be ideal for growing a crop of potatoes because you will of course need drainage in your container so that the crop doesn’t get waterlogged.

Potatoes like to grow in fertile, well-drained soil.

Another benefit from growing your potatoes in a container is that when you are ready to harvest your potatoes, you can tip them out rather than dig them out of the ground because chances are that you will accidentally stick the prong of your garden fork right through the best potato!

You will need help doing this from an adult because soil is very heavy.

There are barrels you can buy with a door in the front.  When your crop is ready for harvesting, you just open the door to pull them out.  How cool is that!

But actually, if you have a no dig policy in your garden, and keep topping up your vegetable patch with compost every year, you will not need to dig your potatoes up, you will just need to pull them up because the top level of soil will be so loose.

Some gardeners think it is best to chit potatoes before you plant them.  Others say that they can’t notice that this really helps much.

You could conduct your own experiment if you like, and become your own expert!

Chitting means letting the potatoes develop little sprouts before you put them in the ground.  Put the seed potatoes on some egg boxes on a window sill for a couple of weeks.  The air will get to them and they will start shooting.  They may shrivel a bit but don’t worry about that, and certainly don’t water them.  Don’t worry if you can’t chit your seed potatoes – it is not a massive problem at all.

In any case, you must buy seed potatoes to plant; you can’t just use some out of a bag that you have bought from the supermarket.  This is because seed potatoes are guaranteed to be disease-free.

If you want to plant potatoes out in open ground, plant them about 15cm deep and 30cm apart in early spring – you will start early potatoes March time but this will be after there is no danger of frost and the ground is not too hard from cold or soggy wet.  Cold wet soil will not help them get off to a good start at all.

The potatoes will appreciate being in sunshine for part of the day and they will like you to dig some compost into the ground to make sure they have plenty of food to eat.

You may want to plant potatoes every weekend for a while.  This is called succession sewing and will stagger your crop.  That means that you will not have to harvest your potatoes all in one go and you will have potatoes ripening over a period of weeks so that you can eat them while they are fresh.

Put the spouts (sometimes called chits or eyes) facing upwards and then cover with soil.

Every time the shoots get to above 20cm above the ground you will need to pile new soil up around the stems.  This can be done with a garden hoe.  This is called ‘earthing up’ and it will ensure that you get lots of potatoes in a small area.

You don’t want to let your potatoes grow too close to the surface otherwise they will get green patches on them and these part will taste horrible.  In fact, you shouldn’t eat the green patches on potatoes at all.  In large quantities, these green parts are poisonous.

If the soil gets really dry, you will have to water your potatoes.  But playing with a hosepipe is a lot of fun so this shouldn’t be hard work for you.

Don’t over-water potatoes, especially as the cropping time approaches because you might make them go mouldy.

Potatoes don’t like getting too hot either.  Remember the story of the potato.  They were grown in the north of Europe or at high altitudes in hotter countries where the ground was cooler.

If it is a particularly hot summer, put a layer of straw of about 10-15cm around the plants to cool them down a bit.  The straw will act like a sun parasol for them.

It will take about 10 weeks for you to get a crop.  This might seem a long time to you but in order to be a good gardener you have to be patient.  Nature works in its own time.



When Bill and Bob found out how to grow potatoes they decided they wanted to grow some in their back garden. 

We called Captain Jack who had some old tyres in his boat house and he stacked some up just inside their back gate. 

They won’t even have to earth up their potatoes – they can just put another tyre on the pile.  They will need help from their dad of course when the time comes because tyres are very heavy to lift.

Because they are not home at the moment, their dad is looking after their vegetable patch for them – under their direction.

If you want to grow potatoes in a container, it is very easy.

Put some compost in the bottom of the container, sit the potatoes on top and cover with compost and water.  When the water starts to come out of the drainage holes, stop watering.

About 28 days later layer on some more compost and water again.

Keep layering on compost and water as the shoots grow upwards.

After about 70 days the leaves will start to shrivel and go yellow.  This is the plant telling you that the potatoes are ready to dig up.

Of course, when you have grown your potatoes you will want to cook them.


Here is an easy recipe to make:-







100g/1½ lb potatoes cubed

1 teaspoon mustard

1 finely chopped spring onion

235g/8 ozes grated cheddar

1 teaspoon chopped parsley

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper


1 sheet of pastry (short crust or puff)



Cook the potatoes in boiling water until they are soft which should be 10-15 minutes

Mash with the other ingredients for the filling

Cut the pastry into 6 squares and divide the filling up into 6 portions to put into the centre of the pastry squares


Fold the squares over to make triangles and seal edges

Put the triangles onto a greased and floured baking sheet and put in a moderate oven for 25-30 minutes

They will be lovely hot served with baked beans or sweet corn or if you leave them to cool, they can be put into lunch boxes.



Bill and Bob’s potato man







Quick Quiz


Which word will match with both of these words:-


  1. Chips/peeler
  2. Doors/poodle
  3. Sky/dress
  4. Lamp/cloth
  5. Brush/pot
  6. Needle/pattern
  7. Petal/vase






lt’s the Weekend!




Each of these tools has two pieces of plastic canvas to make them sturdier.  The pieces are very tiny, so if you take them into the garden to play, don’t lose them.




Using 4mm knitting needles and green dk yarn cast on 130 stitches

Cast off

Sew the strip into a spiral



Using 4mm knitting needles and green dk yarn cast on 36 stitches

Knit 20 rows of garter stitch

Cast off




Sew up the side seam and then the sides to the base and attach two handles made from 12 chains crocheted into a length of yarn to the top.


You will need 1 sheet of 7 mesh 10.5 by 13.5 inches/26.7 by 34.3cm

A few lengths of brown and grey yarn




Cut 2 pieces of plastic as shown in the photograph

It is 2 holes across by 6 holes down at the top = the handle

It is 4 holes across by 5 holes down in the middle

It is 2 holes across by 1 hole down at the bottom


Cover the centre of the handle with tent stitches in brown yarn

Cover the trowel blade with tent stitches in grey yarn

Put the two pieces back to back and sew them together using corresponding colours




Cut 2 pieces of plastic as shown in the photograph

The handle is like this




XX            XX

XX            XX

XXX       XXX



Then the shaft is 6 holes across and 25 holes down

The blade of the spade is 9 holes across and 11 holes down


Cover the shaft and handle with cross stitches in brown yarn

Cover the blade with tent stitches in grey yarn

Put the two pieces back to back and sew them together using corresponding colours



Cut 2 pieces of plastic as shown in the photograph

They are the same as the spade but five prongs have been cut into the bottom part

Cover the shaft and handle with cross stitches in brown yarn

Put the two pieces back to back and sew the handle and shaft pieces together using brown yarn

Sew tent stitches using grey yarn around the prongs to sew the two pieces of plastic canvas together at the bottom of the tool




Please note that the material on this blog is for personal use and for use in classrooms only.

It is a copyright infringement and, therefore, illegal under international law to sell items made with these patterns.

Use of the toys and projects is at your own risk.

©Christina Sinclair Designs 2015sand




Quick Quiz Answers


  1. potato
  2. French
  3. night
  4. table
  5. paint
  6. knitting
  7. flower


French doors

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