Gardeners Chronicle 25: 185 (Sept 2, 1899)

FLAVOUR IN POTATOS
G. H. Engleheart, Appleshaw, Andover.

THE question of flavour in Potatos continues to receive much attention from our correspondents. Below is a strong, but not too strong, indictment of the modern varieties. [Ed.].

"Mr. Harrison Weir and Mr. H. J. Elwes do not write one whit too strongly, but have quite understated the came against the modern Potato. "A. D." may be amused, but it is scarcely a laughing matter. Some day, when the public is less largely composed of fools—at present there are more of them eating worthless Potatos than Mr. Elwes imagines—Potatos with the Potato flavour will be again inquired for, and in vain. For at present it seems the one aim of those who are most industrious in raising Potatos from seed to eliminate all yellow colour, and with it, every vestige of flavour; and to flood our gardens and markets with coarse lumps of tasteless white starch. It may seem an invidious thing to carp at the long and patient work of the hybridiser, but I am constrained to ask a foremost firm, who write of one of their popular Potatos, that "it possesses the great advantage of being white in the flesh." Why is this any advantage? The French, who are immeasurably ahead of us in knowledge and appreciation of what is good to eat, and not merely to measure or look at, in vegetables, will have nothing to do with with white Potatos. To myself this whiteness has one advantage only, it serves as an unerring advertisement of insipidity, and so simplifies the decision of summary rejection. The good Potato is yellow in colour, and in consistency of flesh a happy medium between wax and flour, like a boiled Chestnut; it should never fall to a heap of loose starch when cooked, but should dissolve in the mouth, not on the plate. It has always been a marvel to me why Messrs. Sutton did not follow up the clue of that excellent production, Magnum Bonum—large, prolific, disease-resisting, and with so much of the true colour and flavour of the early kidney varieties. It was the introduction and infusion of the American strains that worked the mischief; how people can grow and eat such dry, vapid, choking stuff as Beauty of Hebron, et hoc genus omne, passes my understanding. Years ago I had sent me from Guernsey, by a sympathising friend, a basket of small, round, roughly-formed, red-skinned Potatos, for all the world like the first known drawing of the Potato in old Clusius's book. They were supremely good, but the plant was a small cropper, and I grieve to say that by some mischance one year no seed-tubers were kept, and I never could obtain the thing again.

To demonstrate what a Potato should and may be in flavour, I posted some of it to the office of a horticultural paper, and with it, to serve as the drunken Helot, or awful contrast and example, the biggest tuber I could find of one of the white American kinds. The Editor (not you, Mr. G. C.), who probably wished to gratify me, but had read my note upside down, wrote:—"We have received your Potatos; the small red kind is valueless, but the other is large, white, floury, and excellent." We still grow in this district the delicious old Walnut Kidney, unsurpassed for earliness, texture, and flavour, but a small cropper, and therefore sure to disappear before the inroad of the coarse, vulgar, valueless, modern Juggernaut Monster. If it is true—but I doubt it—that the American blood was the only possible help against the disease, and that therefore these chalk-faced starch packets are a necessity, we must endure them. But I object to the insult added to injury of being assured that these are the best Potatos that ever have been or are conceivable. It reminds me of the saying attributed to Professor Jowett, "Young men will go wrong, but it is pity when they make a theory of it." As to Tomatos, if Mr. Elwes wants them to eat and not to look at, all he can do is to fall back upon the old common (if it is still common), corrugated Red.