Potatoes Past and Present

Dig it! Plant it! Eat it! gardeners harvest potatoes at MHHM, August 2018

Dig it! Plant it! Eat it! gardeners harvest potatoes at MMMH, August 2018

During summer 2018 MHHM grew potatoes in the nineteenth-century kitchen garden. Though this was the first time the museum grew potatoes in the garden, the potato has a long and esteemed history at Macculloch Hall.

The first documented potato planting at Macculloch Hall was recorded by George Macculloch in 1829, the year he began keeping his detailed garden journal (you can access Mr. Macculloch’s Journal under the Collections tab). From his entry for 1830, we know that potatoes were planted not only to feed the household, but also to feed the hogs. By 1831, Mr. Macculloch had determined that “our annual consumption, including hogs and horses is about 120 Bushels. The chamber under the stair contains 85 bushels.” By 1832, Macculloch Hall was selling part of its potato harvest for profit. 1835 marked a high point for harvest: a staggering 482 bushels or 24,100 lbs. according to the measure of 50 lbs. of potatoes equaling 1 bushel cited in The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Though potatoes were a reliable staple at Macculloch Hall, Mr. Macculloch, like most people at the time, was undoubtedly aware of the Irish Potato Famine. From 1845 to 49 several years of potato crops failed due to potato blight, a type of mold, devastating Ireland. Pinned into his journal in 1849 is an undated newspaper notice from the N.Y. Sun:

A perfect cure for the potato disease is said to have a last been discovered and applied to the crop in Germany. Dr. Klosch, of Berlin, has received a reward of $1,400 from the Prussian Government for the discovery. The same manner of preventing the disease was discovered nearly at the same time by the celebrated Professor Liebig, but Dr. Klosch has tested it for the space of three years successfully and on a large scale. The plan is to pinch off about half an inch from the top of the plant when it has reached a height of six to nine inches, and repeat the same operation ten or eleven weeks after the time of planting on all stems of the plant.

And now that we have grown potatoes at MHHM, we would know just how to do this.



We are grateful to The Astle-Alpaugh Family Foundation for making Dig it! Plant it! Eat it! possible.