What's happening! I wanna find more varieties of potatoes, early and late, that have grown originally from the Midwest from the Great Lakes to the Great Plains from European settlers as well as from some Native Americans who had theirs from the Europeans. I've got purple cowhorn potatoes that were grown by the Europeans, but I'm looking for more to add to my gardens for next year. I'm also looking for sweet potatoes also from indians and early settlers. I've tried to look everywhere and researched as much as I could to find out which of these fit into my Midwest region and landscape. Please let me know in this thread. Love always!
I don't put much stock in most of what I've read about native American or even colonial origin of particular cultivars of things. Most of it just seems overly romanticized and lacking in any real provable confirmation.
That said, here in Southern Indiana the only named potatoes I remember as a kid from 60 years ago are Kennebec and Pontiac. They were my mother's favorites and I know that my grandfather grew them, probably going back 100 years. That's a far cry from Indian and settler times.
As far as sweet potatoes, most any will grow here but I don't remember them at all as a kid. I think they are traditionally more a southern crop. I don't know if native Americans of this region grew them much at all, I would be interested in any documentation or stories that they did. They are such an easy and productive crop it seems to me that if they were grown much by the natives that they would be part of their generally accepted agricultural history along with beans, corn and squash. Sweet potatoes most often don't even make actual seeds, many don't even bloom. Propagation is done by saving roots to make slips the next year but they are very intolerant to cold. Back then it would have been very difficult to keep roots alive over winter.
That's not a problem for us though cause we keep our houses above freezing all winter. Unless the historical aspect is of interest and importance, I would just get a few kinds and then keep propagating the ones I liked best. There is one called Georgia Jet and another called Nancy Hall and some from New Jersey whose names I've forgotten. They have been around a long time but no where near back to settler or native times, I don't think. I suspect that back then they were only grown in areas that didn't freeze in the winter, they are perennial in those places.
Actually I breed sweet potatoes and have done a LOT of research on them but it was mostly focused on how to get them to make seeds, I just glossed over anything else. I'm making a mental note to dig all that out this winter and go through it to see if there are hints of when they came to be cultivated and if there are any named varieties still around that date back that far.
My paid work has been potato research coordination in the Northwest, and so I'd be more help answering this for the northwest coastal potatoes. I know nothing about indigenous folks' use of potato in the Midwest. The potato breeder at Michigan State University, David Douches, probably knows. Here in the west I've grown Ozette, which was the potato grown by the Makah people in NW Washington. I knew a geneticist who worked with the tribe to help them with their planting stocks of this variety, and he also did genetic analyses that showed the Ozette was probably transported up the coast from Mexico by the original Spanish explorers of the west coast. It produces very large tops and weird but fun little tubers.
I'd guess the colonists in the midwest would have grown something like Burbank (which was replaced by Russet Burbank in the early 1900s) or Irish Cobbler. But, like I said, David Douches would have a better idea.
Could you bring Mr Douches to this forum so we can chat one on one about more historic Midwest potatoes from Native Americans and early settlers? I'm amazed about that potato from the northwest. Could you explain more about the nutrional value of the plant and stuff like that?
You heard of Seneca Cowhorn and red rose potatoes, both historic in a sense? There's a historic report that the red potato was a relative of the Irish from Peru and the red rose is an ancestor of the parent from Peru years ago. Do anybody know of anybody who has the historic parent of the red rose which is from Peru? Please let me know on this box right away!