Royal Society EL/B1/79

Extract from a letter about Potato cultivation sent to Robert Boyle

An Extract of a letter about Potatos written to Mr Boyle and read in the Society April.8.1663
Entered L.B.1.pag.83

Sir, I have according to your desire sent a box of potato rootes. My care hath been to make choice of such that are fitt to sett without cutting, for many that have not small ones Enough are constrained to cut the great ones, but I doe not Aprove of that husbandry neither doe I make use of it, because when they are cut the wormes doth feede on them & soe devouring the substance the branch groweth the weaker and the Roote small. The grownd which they thrive best in, is a light sandy Earth where fearne or briers doth naturally grow. Their Nature is not to grow fruitfull in a riche soile because they will spring forth many branches & soe incumber the grownd that they will have but small roots. You may Cause them to be sett a foot a part or somthing better, whole as they are, & their will be great increase, and the branch will bring forth fruit which wee call the potato Apple, they are very good to pickle for winter sallets and alsoe to preserve. I have tasted of many sorts of fruit & have not Eaten the like of that. They are gathered in September before the frost doth take them. If you are minded to have great store of small roots which are fittest to sett, you may Cause them to lay downe the branches in the month before named & cover them with Earth three or four inches thick & the branch at Every Joynt will bring forth small roots in soe great A number that the increase of one yarde of grownde will sett twenty the next season and it must be the Care of the Geardner to cover the grownd where the roots are with fearne or stra halfe A foot thick or Better at the begining of the winter otherwise the frost will destroy the Roots, & as they have occation to dig out the great roots they may uncover the grownd & leave the small ones in the Earth and cover them as before to preserve seedes now. The season to dig the grownd for the next yeres fruits is in April, or May, but I holde it best the later End of April, and when they dig the grownd let them pick out as many as they can find small and great & yet their will be Enough for the next Cropp left. Let the Covering which they are Covered with all be buried in the grownd & that is all the improvement that I doth bestow. I could speake in the praise of the root, what A good and profittable thing it is & might be to a Commonwealth could it generally be Experianced as the inhabitance of your Towne can manifest the truth of it, but I will be silent in speaking in the praise of them knowing you are not Ignorant of it.