Potatoes

Remarks on their properties and importance

Method

There is no vegetable commonly cultivated in this country, we venture to assert, which is comparable in value to the potato when it is of a good sort, has been grown in a suitable soil, and is properly cooked and served. It must be very nutritious, or it would not sustain the strength of thousands of people whose almost sole food it constitutes, and who, when they can procure a sufficient supply of it to satisfy fully the demands of hunger, are capable of accomplishing the heaviest daily labour. It may not be wise to depend for subsistence on a root of which the crop unhappily is so frequently in these days destroyed or greatly injured by disease, and for which it is so difficult to find a substitute that is equally cheap, wholesome, and satisfying; but we can easily comprehend the predilection of an entire people for a tuber which combines, like the potato, the solidity almost of bread, with the healthful properties* of various other fresh vegetables, without their acidity; and which can also be cooked and served in so many different forms. The wretched manner in which it is dressed in many English houses renders it comparatively valueless, and accounts in a measure for the prodigality with which it is thrown away when cold, even in seasons when its price is highest.†

* The late Dr. Pereira has stated in his excellent work on diet, that Dr. Baly, who has published some interesting observations on the anti-scorbutic quality of the potato, says, “As ordinarily cooked, it is an admirable preservative against the scurvy,” for which it appears to be also a cure, see the same work.

† We cannot refrain from a few words of remark here on the daily waste of wholesome food in this country which constitutes one of the most serious domestic abuses that exist amongst us; and one which it is most painful to witness while we see at the same time the half-starvation of large masses of our people. It is an evil which the steady and resolute opposition of the educated classes would soon greatly check; and which ought not vainly to appeal to their good sense and good feeling, augmenting, as it must, the privations of the scantily-fed poor; for the “waste” of one part of the community cannot fail to increase the “want” of the remainder.

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