What do potatoes look like, is a question many farmers ask, thanks to some weeds that resemble the potato plant. Potato plants have slightly serrated leaves at the edges, with a teardrop shape.
The plant produces white, blue, purple, or pink flowers, depending on the variety, and the tubers are oval with the colors depending on the potato type.
- What Do Potatoes Look Like?
- What Do Potatoes Look Like When Ready to Harvest?
- What Are The Different Types of Potatoes
- What Are Potato Varieties
- What Are Other Plants That Look Like A Potato but Aren’t
- How to Spot A Newly Sprouting Potato Plant
What Do Potatoes Look Like?
Potato look like little hard vegetables that can have different beige shades, often covered with soil. When growing, they have stems and leaves, and flower. Moreover, potatoes grow about 12 and 24 inches above the ground, and their edible parts are tubers.
– The Rooted Tuber
The last method to know if you are growing potatoes in your garden or rearing weeds is by examining the tubers. Potato tubers are primarily oval-shaped, with others having different shapes, sizes, and weights.
Not all potato tubers are white; others are yellow, blue, or purple, depending on the potato variety. However, almost all of them have a starchy nature, and they are rich in carbohydrates, and this is the principal reason why.
The tubers have a central stolon that acts as the placenta by connecting it to the roots for water and nutrient absorption. Tubers are also rich in starch, the main component of potatoes. They also carry other minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
– The Leaves
While leaves might not help you distinguish early potatoes from other weeds, they have some distinctive characteristics. The plant produces compound leaves that can grow 8 to almost 12 inches long. They are spirally arranged and thrive in an alternating style on the stem.
The leaves have a lanceolate shape, and when you look closely, you will notice the visible midrib and parallel veins that divide the leaf into tiny sections. One unique characteristic of the potato plant leaves is their texture. They have a glossy look, are light to dark green, and are covered with a waxy cuticle, and they will thrive under the sun. The cuticle prevents water loss from the leaves through transpiration.
Another distinguishing feature of this plant’s leaves is their pubescent nature. They have tiny soft hairs making them fuzzy to touch. The hairs protect the plant from being fed by pests and animals and from extreme weather conditions.
Potato leaves can show when it’s time to harvest the tubers. They begin to wither and dry out. The drying out could start with wilting and browning of the edges. However, if your plants are not yet ready, the wilting could be due to a lack of water and minerals. So, ensure you fertilize and water them.
– The Flowers
Besides the leaves, you can also use potato flowers to distinguish the plants from weeds resembling them. Potatoes produce flowers that look like those plants, but these appear in different colors depending on the potato varieties you grow.
Some flowers have yellow, white, lavender, or beautiful pink petals, and these would start to show they the plant is growing and has rooted itself . These are clustered at the tips of the branches, and since they are self-fertile, bees, flies, and other insects pollinate them. The flowers have five stamens, a pistil, and fused petals. You will also notice a two-lobbed stigma if you look inside.
The plants flowers pollinate and produce a berry-like fruit with seeds. The berries resemble cherry tomatoes, although these are green and covered with white stripes, which is what differs these berries.
However, these fruits can be tempting to eat, but they are poisonous because they contain high amounts of solanine, which means they can intoxicate easily when ingested. Also, planting seeds from potato berries does not give a similar potato tuber to the potato parent plant.
– Stem and Structure
Farmers grow potatoes from old potato tubers. The new plant grows through vegetative propagation, meaning it sprouts from a part of the old plant, the tuber. However, when planting your potato garden, you should use certified seed potatoes because they are disease free.
The old tuber sprouts and grows up to 40 inches tall a few days after planting potatoes, and this is how you would indicate them. The reason why they grow this tall is when they are in a well-fertilized soils and those rich in nitrogen.
However, the ideal weight for potato plants is two to three feet because this is more manageable to work with. If you grow the plant in pots, ensure the soil is well-draining, and you have drainage pores at the bottom.
The tall stem, also called stolon, is green and succulent, and some grow vertically while others can grow horizontally on the ground. The stems are slightly swollen at the nodes, allowing new leaves and branches to grow.
As the plant grows, the stem thickens underground to produce tubers that grow near the soil surface. Potato plants can make as many as 20 tubers or fewer, depending on the availability of moisture and nutrients. Although the plant can have many tubers, some fail to mature due to the absence of growth conditions.
What Do Potatoes Look Like When Ready to Harvest?
When they are ready to harvest, and once your potato trees mature, they begin to flower. Moreover, their leaves start to turn yellow, and the skin would have a harder skin. The tubers will be right below the plant’s stem.
– Begin Flowering
Flowering is the first sign that the tubers are forming and will be ready within a few weeks. With time, the leaves wilt, and the edges turn yellow. The stems also begin to yellow and wither. During this time, the potato tubers are hardening and curing.
– Yellow Leaves
While you can start harvesting potatoes from your garden when the leaves turn yellow, the tubers are too young and have a shorter shelf life. Which means that once you see these leaves turning brown it is your sign to know that they are ready for harvest.
– Harder Skin
Allowing them to mature underground hardens the skin and improves the shelf life. But do not leave potatoes underground for too long to prevent rotting, even if their skin has become much harder and thicker.
– Tubers Below
When you start to dig potatoes, use the right tools like a digging fork or four-pronged potato hoe. Ensure you begin digging outside the hill to avoid injuring the tubers.
You should also pick the discovered potatoes and search deeper using your hands to find more hidden harvests.
What Are The Different Types of Potatoes
The different types of potatoes are the waxy types, the starchy and the all-purpose kinds. Potatoes are available in different kinds, but most farmers grow white potatoes. These types are categorized by the tuber texture and the color of their flesh.
Before you plant potatoes, you should also know how to prepare the different types. Note that these tubers have different starch levels. Some common potato textures are;
– Waxy Potatoes
Waxy potatoes are the best choice if you want low starch. They have creamy flesh, and their thin skin doesn’t need peeling before cooking. The tubers also have a high moisture content, but the flesh sticks together when cooked.
Waxy potatoes are easy to prepare. Since they do not fall apart when cooked, you can boil, simmer in soups, and stew or bake them in the oven. You can also roast or slice these potatoes; adding spices makes them more delicious.
– Starchy Potatoes
If you want higher starch content in your meals, grow or cook starchy potatoes. They have a mealy flesh with a dry texture that causes them to crumble when cooked. Therefore, starchy potatoes are best for making mashed potatoes or baked potatoes.
Although the flesh is dry, it absorbs liquids perfectly, because of their nature. Therefore, most chefs add dairy or butter to this potato variety to make a delicious meal. Since the exterior of the tuber absorbs oil well, you can make deliciously crispy French fries or potato wedges from the starchy potato.
– All-Purpose Potatoes
Some people like moderate amounts of starch, and you can find this in all-purpose potatoes. The tubers have medium moisture content; you can use them for any potato recipe with a starchy or waxy variety.
All-purpose potatoes hold their shape when cooked, so they can be simmered, roasted, or fried. They also have a fluffy texture, allowing them to soak well in liquids like milk and butter.
What Are Potato Varieties
Potato varieties are russet potatoes, Yukon gold, the jewel yams, the all blue ones, and the Japanese sweet potatoes. These have different shapes, textures, skins, and even taste, due to their starch levels. They all hold different characteristics but can all be used for culinary purposes.
Potatoes are available in thousands of varieties, all distinguished using the tuber size, texture, and skin type. The varieties also behave differently when cooked, meaning they can fall under starchy, waxy, or all-purpose types, depending on the moisture content.
– The Russet Potato
The russet potato is a starchy-textured potato with medium to dark brown skin. The potatoes are mainly available in huge sizes, and most gardeners use them to make baked potatoes. Another distinguishing feature is the pale white flesh which becomes light and fluffy when cooked.
In addition to this, because these spuds have a high starch content, most people would like to use them in various ways when they are using it for culinary reasons. The way that the potato holds moisture, it is often characterized by having an extended limitation in its use.
– Yukon Gold Potatoes
The Yukon gold potatoes are characterized by their golden tan skin and belong to the all-purpose textured potatoes. The outer skin is thin, and the inner yellow flesh bears a sweet butter flavor.
These potatoes can be cooked without peeling. They cook quickly and can be used to make mashed, baked, or fried potatoes. You will mostly find them in commercial kitchens and restaurants.
– Red Potatoes
It could be your first time hearing about red bliss potatoes, but they have existed for centuries. As the name suggests, this potato type has red skin and belongs to the waxy group of potatoes.
Therefore, they contain little starch and high moisture content. However, other than their skin, their flesh is not red like the name suggests, on the contrary, it is yellow and white like in color. Also, although most waxy potatoes don’t require peeling, ensure you remove the red potato’s skin before cooking it.
– Jewel Yams
Jewel yams are standard sweet potatoes with softer flesh. The potato type has copper-colored skin and deep orange flesh in the starchy category. Moreover, the shape of this spud is more a bit elongated, and the rooting is seen often when you take it out of the soil.
They have a different taste than the regular ones, because of their chemically bound molecules, they result in a sweeter taste.
– All Blue Potato
Another potato of the all-purpose type is the all-blue potato. It has dark blue skin and purple flesh thanks to the high amounts of antioxidants in the tuber. These potatoes have similar antioxidant levels with other purple-colored vegetables and fruits like eggplant, blueberries, and red onion.
You can use the all-blue potato in many recipes, although they are out of the norm of regular and beige or yellow colored ones, but they do make an exquisite look when they are placed in a dish.
– Japanese Sweet Potato
Other varieties have a sweet taste, like the Japanese sweet potato. It has dark red or purple skin, with a flesh that turns sweet yellow after cooking. This potato variety can be baked, smashed, boiled, or roasted, depending on your craving, because of its starch content.
This variety is one that has a higher starch content than other varieties, and it softens in the middle when roasted or fried. It has a flavor that resembles chestnut and is sold by many vendors as a street snack.
What Are Other Plants That Look Like A Potato but Aren’t
There are other wild and poisonous plants that you can easily confuse for a potato plant. Some have leaves that look like those of potatoes, while others produce potato-like tubers. An example of such plants are;
– Potato Vine
Potato vibe belongs to the same family as the edible potato tree, nightshade. It grows as a shrub, but some climb other trees. It has compound leaves growing on long stems that are heart-shaped and pointed and can grow up to 6 inches long.
The wild vine produces white flowers with a purple center, and the blooms grow in clusters. They are funnel-shaped and start showing in May. The vine has stems that grow up to 16 feet long. They produce tubers about 2 feet long and can weigh over 20 pounds.
Although potato vines have beautiful and sweet-smelling flowers, they are toxic to touch and ingest. The tree can also cause severe vomiting and diarrhea to cats and dogs when they chew the plant.
You must take your child to the hospital if they eat potato vine berries or leaves. If the plant grows in your yard outdoors, wear gloves when pruning it and prevent your pets from going near it.
How to Spot A Newly Sprouting Potato Plant
14-24 days after burying potato seeds into the grounds, the leaves start coming out. The first leaves are mostly medium to dark green and crinkled. Soon every tuber will begin producing its sprouts, making a cluster of tiny leaves coming from the ground.
A few days after the sprouting, the leaves start taking the natural potato shape. They become smooth, leave the crinkled appearance and take on round or oval shapes. The vines start growing, and they elongate to form branches.
Stalks lined with alternating leaves form, and the leaves now have a teardrop shape. You can easily confuse a potato’s new plant with other weeds, so waiting for them to grow is essential.
1. Can Potato Plants Grow Again After Harvest?
Potatoes are perennial crops, meaning they grow after harvesting. They mostly die during winter because fewer factors promote plant growth during the season, and they can regrow in spring. You can also harvest potatoes yearly, as long as there are good growing conditions.
Identifying potato plants can be challenging because other crops resemble them. For example, the teardrop shape of these plants’ leaves. However, you can differentiate potato crops from other plants by their flowers, tubers, and leaves.
From this article, you will find that:
- Potatoes are available in a wide variety, defined by the starch levels and how they behave after cooking.
- You can use potatoes to make mashed potatoes, French fries, and roasted potatoes.
- The wild potato vine can easily be confused with the usual potato crop, which is toxic to humans, cats, and dogs.
- Potato crop flowers bear toxic berries which should not be eaten or planted.
Now that you can use the mentioned features to distinguish potato plants from other crops, you can comfortably plant them in your garden. And, of course, enjoy freshly sourced potatoes straight from your garden.
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