Harvesting Potatoes

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, October 19, 1912:  Had to pick taters this afternoon. Thought perhaps I’d get out of it because it rained last night, but didn’t get out of it any way.

Harvesting potatoes in the German Democratic Republic in 1945. The country isn’t right–and the year isn’t right to illustrate this entry. But the picture does provide a sense of how much work it is to gather potatoes. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

It’s always dirty, difficult, back-breaking work to gather potatoes—and it must have been especially unpleasant if the field was muddy.

These potatoes probably were a long-season variety stored well.

I’m surprised that Grandma’s parents wanted to harvest potatoes if the ground was wet—it seems like the potatoes would have been a muddy mess.

18 Responses

  1. I remember the potatoe cellar my grandpa had in his house. He’d open up the floor and we’d all look down into the dirt and he’d come up with potatoes for breakfast, cooked on a wood stove in a cast iron skillet with lots of lard…..was yummy

    • I have similar memories from when I was a child. We had fried potatoes (and fried eggs) cooked in a cast iron skillet for breakfast most mornings. Potatoes cooked in lard–with a little salt added after they are cooked–are absolutely awesome. I’m getting hungry just thinking about them.

  2. [...] recent post from A Hundred Years Ago featured harvesting potatoes as the subject of her Grandmother’s one hundred year old diary [...]

  3. I can only imagine the mess and misery picking potatoes in a muddy field would have been for your grandmother. Did your great grandparents grow crops like potatoes for their own use, for selling?

    • I don’t know about my great-grandparents; but I do know that when my father was a child that that Grandma (and my grandfather) raised and sold potatoes.

  4. maybe because it is late in the season? am I letting my non farmer show?

    • I think that you probably are right–that Grandma’s parents were concerned that the weather might get even worse and that they’d better get them gathered while they could.

  5. Makes me appreciate my food…thank goodness for machines now.

  6. Reminds me of the old Irish saying… “It’s not a meal without the taties”. A tatie loving gene which I’ve clearly inherited :-) … Nasty business harvesting them in the mud & muck but must have been necessary, I reckon. Big hugs, back through time, for you Miss Muffly.

  7. I think it’s easier to pull weeds from my garden when the ground is damp – it doesn’t seem to hang onto the roots as much. Perhaps the potatoes were easier to yank out of the ground, too, when the field was wet?

  8. They didn’t want them to rot after the vines died from frost. This was a late crop. I guess they would have rinsed them and laid them out in the barn to dry before burying them in the root cellar.

  9. [...] Harvesting Potatoes [...]

  10. […] You may also enjoy reading a previous post on Harvesting Potatoes. […]

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