Burbank’s Own Story of How He Developed the Burbank Potato
Some interesting facts on the story of the Burbank potato can be found in a newspaper clipping from the Stockton Daily Evening Record of October 20, 1924, titled “Luther Burbank Tells of Origin of Burbank Potato.”
While it was being announced on Potato Day that San Joaquin County had won the world’s record for potato production, Luther Burbank, originator of the Burbank potato, with which the records were made, told of the origination of the potato.
“The Early Rose potato of my boyhood days,” Burbank said, “was never known to have produced a seed ball. I had been raising seedling potatoes, but they all came out, unfortunately, like the parent plant, and were not good. Just then I came across this seed ball. It was a remarkable experience. I felt that something remarkable would develop. In the fall of 1872 I planted the seeds out in a field. I used to visit every day, but one day I lost it. I felt concerned and hunted day after day, and at last I found it about twenty feet from where I had planted it. It is remarkable that such a development came from such an incident as that. This was in Lunenburg, Mass. When I dug the potatoes in the fall I found that one had white eyes and the rest of the body was red, and another had red eyes and the rest of the body white. Another had prominent eyes and eyebrows, the eyes were clear to the center of the body. As quick as I dug I knew I had a prize.
“I wrote to B.K. Bliss & Co. of Rochester, N.Y. in the spring of 1873. I sent a sack. I felt glad that I had a wonderful potato. The firm replied that they were so sweet and nutty that they feared they must be frozen, and, therefore turned them down. I sent a sample to James H. Gregory, Marblehead, Mass. And was asked to see him. I went. He asked what I wanted for them. I asked $500. He offered me $125, and as I needed the money I took his offer. Later I came to California. He asked me if I had any more. I told him I was hard up, and he gave me $25 more. He introduced the new potato and the United States government sent it to Oregon.
“The Bodega Red was the favorite potato in California then, and I could hardly get anyone to plant them. Finally, I induced one of my brothers to plant them, and in two or three years a San Francisco doctor took them up, and now they are so plentiful that since then enough of them have been grown that they would require a freight train 14,000 miles long to carry them, or in other words, the train would be long enough to reach from Santa Rosa to any point on this planet.”