Taking Inventory: Potato

Playing the tuber

It’s the holiday season, and as this most wonderful time of the year, it’s only natural that your thoughts should turn to Minecraft’s most festive item. I’m not talking about the spruce sapling, or the campfire, or the bucket of milk. I’m talking about everyone’s favourite gift of all – the potato.

What do you mean potatoes aren’t festive? They’re the greatest gift anyone can receive! They’re edible, farmable, smeltable, tradable, compostable, and you can even use them to breed pigs. Pigs! What more could anyone want than a lot of pigs? The answer: a lot of potatoes. 

Potatoes were added to Minecraft in the Pretty Scary update in October 2012, alongside witches, anvils, pumpkins, and flowerpots. To obtain one you’ve got a few options – you can go raid a village farm, hunt down a shipwreck or pillager outpost, or just slay a bunch of zombies until one drops the potato it was carrying. Why do zombies carry potatoes? The real question is why would anyone NOT carry a potato at ALL TIMES?

Once you’ve got a potato, the first thing you’ll want to do is turn it into many, many more potatoes. You can do this by planting it in some farmland near water and waiting a while. Eventually, you’ll be able to harvest it for 1-4 new potatoes. Plant those, harvest those, repeat, and before long you’ll have a whole chest full of potatoes, ready to gift to your nearest and dearest.

In the rare circumstance that your nearest and dearest don’t want the potatoes, the first thing to do is find a new family who appreciates potatoes as much as you do. But if that’s not possible then you can eat them yourself (either raw or baked in a smelter or campfire for extra tastiness), use them to breed an enormous herd of pigs, trade them to villagers for emeralds, or compost them so you can grow MORE POTATOES.

In the real world, everyone loves potatoes too. They originated in what is now Peru, were domesticated by Native Americans about 10,000 years ago, and are now the world’s fourth-largest food crop after corn, wheat, and rice – eaten in almost every culture around the globe. 

Potato plants can either be grown from seeds or from other potatoes. They grow about 60cm tall, and produce lovely white, pink, red, blue, or purple flowers, depending on the variety. After they’ve flowered, they produce fruits that look a bit like cherry tomatoes, each of which contains about 300 seeds. But these fruits are poisonous and so instead we eat the tuber – a part of the root where the plant stores nutrients for the winter.

Today, the biggest potato-producing countries in the world are China, India, and Russia, but the countries of northern and eastern Europe actually produce more potatoes per person than anywhere else on the planet. We northern Europeans eat them fried, deep-fried, baked, mashed, roasted, scalloped, diced, sliced, boiled, grated, microwaved, steamed, and even in salads. They’re amazing!

That’s why potatoes, in my humble opinion, are the greatest gift anyone could give to anyone this festive season. Happy holidays!

Duncan Geere
Duncan Geere