A little respect for the proud Irish potato

image by Missy Roenberry

In honor of the month of March, when we celebrate all things Irish, here’s an amusing – and historical – look back at a vegetable that’s central to Irish heritage: the potato.

Back in the days when Webster was more a farming community than anything else, the Webster Herald would commonly publish reports on the bounty of the year’s harvest. But the following two items, pulled from a column called “Who Can Beat This?”, published on Oct. 23, 1942 at the height of WWII, focused specifically on two very unusual potatoes. 

The author began, “We are told that food will win the war. And it will. When you get a combination of fighting Irish and Irish potatoes, you just can’t beat it. … Of course we all know that there are no fighting men like the Irish… Now about the potatoes….” 

The article continued, “In the fall of 1941, Martin Hosenfeld, who farms over on the State Road, harvested several acres of potatoes. In sorting them he came across one that weighed 3 pounds and 4 ounces, which goes to prove that you can’t beat the Irish potatoes.” 

Apparently the potato had some even more unusual qualities.

This particular potato was not going to be caught napping, so it was born with eighteen eyes. In the spring of 1942 Mr. Hosenfeld cut the potato into eighteen pieces, one eye in a piece, and planted them one in a hill. From that nineteen forty-one potato that weighed a little more than three pounds, he this year harvested twenty-three pounds of potatoes, practically all of them being of marketable size.

These reports typically also included specifics about the farmer’s methods, perhaps in case others might want to try to grow an even bigger potato. In Farmer Hosenfeld’s case, the author wrote, 

“The soil in which he planted was a heavy loam. He fertilized with twenty ton manure to the acre and half a ton of fertilizer.”

Later in the column, the author reported on yet another monstrous potato, which he theorized might actually help the war effort. 

He wrote, “Fruits and vegetables are certainly going to town this year in size. They realize we are in the war all right and they sure are producing. The latest on the list is a potato that grew in a patch on Ovid Fry’s farm on the Nine Mile Point Road. This little Irish potato weighed three pounds. Not a bad weight for a small potato.” 

“We are going to have this potato baked and while it is good and hot come in and pick it up and you will better realize what Hitler has got a hold of.” 

And in case you’re wondering, “Ovid had four and one-half acres of Katahdins and they produced three hundred bushels to the acre. The soil is a sandy loam and he used 1100 pounds of fertilizer to the acre.”

The Webster Museum has an entire exhibit highlighting Webster’s rich farming history. Stop by for a visit and learn more about, well, maybe not potatoes, but certainly all sorts of fruits and vegetables, cereal grains and more. The museum is located at 18 Lapham Park in the Village of Webster. It’s open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Visit the website at webstermuseum.org to learn more. 

Missy Rosenberry
Webster Community Blogger

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