Here is a little project you might want to do with your kids or grandkids on a snowy or rainy day in late winter or spring when they’re locked up indoors: have them prepare potato maze… or a spud obstacle course, if you prefer.
Why late winter or early spring? Because you’ll need a potato that is sprouting and that is most likely to happen close to springtime.
- Shoe box or other similar cardboard container
- A few pieces of cardboard
- Scotch tape
- A potato with sprouts
- Make a small hole in the sidewall at one end of the box. It should be about 1 inch (2,5 cm) in diameter.
- Inside the box, install rectangles of cardboard (they must be the same height as the box and can be up to 4/5ths its width)to serve as obstacle walls, as in a maze. Use Scotch tape to hold them in place. See drawing above for one suggestion, but you can make it more complicated maze if you want. Just remember there must be a “a viable way out” for this to work.
- Place a sprouting potato (one with small white or pink shoots) at the end of the box furthest from the hole.
- Close the box so no light gets in from above.
- Place the box so that sunlight can peep in through the hole.
- Check the maze every 2 or 3 days and watch what happens.
The stem of the potato will lengthen and will eventually work its way around the obstacles, eventually pushing its way out through the hole.
Plants need light for their survival: it’s their only source of energy. When the light is lacking, as in this maze, the plant will carry out what is called phototropism: it will grow towards the source of light, even if it has to bypass obstacles to do so. Once the stem does reach the light, it will turn from pale to green and leaves will emerge and begin to carry out photosynthesis, the conversion of light into stored energy.
Plant It Out
When summer comes, if the potato has not dried up entirely, have the kids plant it outside in the ground or even in a pot. This will become experiment number 2: how to turn one potato into many!
Who’d ever have thought you’d get that many plant life lessons from a simple spud?