2013/07/06

Spud, the Sailor Man

I harvested our potato crop recently.  Did pretty well for a novice I think.  We netted 7 kilograms (15 lbs) from our mini-garden.  Everything from pingpong ball size to large fist sized ones.    Very tasty and no pesticides, or insecticides used.


Machu Picchu - Inca lost city - a potato civilization





Sailors and potatoes go way back.  In movies involving American military life, there is often a scene of sailors peeling potatoes (though I prefer to eat the skins whenever possible as they contain a lot of nutrients).

I had a neighbor - Merle - when I was at university who had served aboard the BB-38 USS Pennsylvania during World War II.   He was there when Pearl Harbor was attacked.  At the time, the Pennsy was in dry-dock, but still received battle damage.

When they got underway again, they went over to Maui and anchored in Lahaina Rhodes, a sheltered area between the islands of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai, to re-provision the ship.    Merle was sent ashore to find potatoes.  The Pennsylvania was the largest battleship that US Navy ever had, with a compliment of over 1300 officers and men, so they could go through a lot of potatoes in a hurry!   And Maui didn't grow a lot of them as you might imagine - mostly sugar cane and pineapple.   So basically, they got every potato on the island.

How many sailors does it take to peel a potato?


Potatoes were first cultivated by the Inca about 2300 years ago.  It was the staple of their remarkable civilization except when they went to war at which times they would switch to Quinoa.   When Spain conquered the Inca in the early 16th Century, they brought some back to Spain and eventually families of Basque sailors raised them in northern Spain as a staple that could be taken to sea.

Sir Walter Raleigh planted some 40,000 acres of them in Ireland in the late 16th century, from where they spread to other parts of Europe.

Speaking of Sir Walter - here's Bob Newhart in 1961 doing a skit about him:




Potatoes are the fourth largest food crop in the world after corn, rice, and wheat.  (The diet of every successful civilization has been based on one of those starches or variant thereof.)
Of course so called "French fried" potatoes, while the most consumed vegetable of Americans (oy! No, I'm not making that up), is not in the same category being filled with fat, trans fatty acids, and acrylamide. 

My corn is blossoming and I'm looking forward to that small crop - just 20 or so plants in three stages to spread out the harvest.   Other veggies are doing well.  We are starting to get really nice zucchini now, and are eating broccoli regularly.

I fights to the finishk, cause I eats me spinachk (and potatoes) says Spud the Sailor Man!

From the "everything you know is wrong" department:  It was the Frenchman Jean Nicot, from whose name the word nicotine is derived, who introduced tobacco to France in 1560, and it was from France, not the New World, that tobacco reached England. 

4 comments:

Martin J Frid said...

Just curious, do you protect your corn in any way or is it all OK? Need a net or anything?

Martin J Frid said...

Better not peal them, a lot of nutrients in or near the skin, just brush hard instead.

Typical of the Military to deprive young men of vitamins. It was Japan that learnt the hard way that white rice didn't have enough to keep their enlisted men healthy, and this was called beriberi:

In the late 1800s, beriberi was studied by Takaki Kanehiro, a British-trained Japanese medical doctor of the Japanese Navy. Beriberi was a serious problem in the Japanese navy: sailors fell ill an average of four times a year in the period 1878 to 1881, and 35% were cases of beriberi. In 1883, Kanehiro learned of a very high incidence of beriberi among cadets on a training mission from Japan to Hawaii, via New Zealand and South America. The voyage lasted more than 9 months and resulted in 169 cases of sickness and 25 deaths on a ship of 376 men.

With the support of the Japanese Navy, he conducted an experiment in which another ship was deployed on the same route, except that its crew was fed a diet of meat, fish, barley, rice, and beans. At the end of the voyage, this crew had suffered only 14 cases of beriberi and no deaths. This convinced Kanehiro and the Japanese Navy that diet was the cause.

In 1884, Kanehiro observed that beriberi was endemic among low-ranking crew who often were provided nothing but rice, but not among crews of Western navies and nor among Japanese officers who consumed a more varied diet.

Pandabonium said...

Martin - This year I haven't found a need to protect my corn. Last year I had a problem with ants which "ranch" aphids on the leaves, but so such problem this time. Birds have not been a problem either. Perhaps because there are bigger targets in the neighborhood.

Yes, that is an interesting story about beriberi. This was largely caused by milling the rice in order to make it last longer on voyages. As we know, milled or "white" rice can be stored far longer than genmai or "brown rice", but by removing the bran and germ to make white rice, one also removes most of the nutrients.

Captain James Cook used to provide his crews with fresh vegetables when possible and at a minimum citrus fruit. (He also cleaned the living spaces on his ships regularly). His crews were the healthiest and happiest on long voyages.

Pandabonium said...

As for potatoes - I just scrub mine, but since I am usually cooking for two I have to peel the ones I give K. People are very defensive about eating habits so it is a challenge to educate and get them to change long established habits.