Potato mold

Peter Norris

August 27, 2016

This post is for once without a picture. And with good reason, because there must be limits to what is posted by photos. But it must still be told when, for the first time in 30 years of kitchen garden cultivation, you have experienced something that you had otherwise only read about in the history books. And have always feared as others have been able to fear plague or cholera.

I have been out for potato mold almost every year in the month of July in several of the varieties that are to be stored for the winter. At the beginning of the attack on the leaves, the potatoes are picked up, dried in the sun and stored. In the coming months, I can occasionally find a single dried and slightly rotten tuber or two in a box, but it's never worse. Right up until today.

When I wanted to grab a potful of asparagus potatoes to accompany the organic chicken, the whole box (about 4 kilos) was one big smelly, slimy mass. Rarely has anything come down so quickly in 2 plastic bags and out of the house.

Asparagus potatoes are notorious for being quite susceptible to mold, and the plants were also infested when harvested in mid-July. But never before have I had mold in the tubers themselves - because it can hardly be anything else that has ruined the whole harvest. Suddenly you got a little sense of what it was like to be an Irish farmer in the 1840s when the potato mold triggered the great famine - and suddenly you become completely grateful that potato varieties with a somewhat different resistance have since been developed.