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Potato's Journey: From Feed to Slovenian Favourite

Updated: Jun 20

Despite growing recognition in Slovenia during the 18th century, the potato faced significant resistance, with many viewing it primarily as livestock feed. However, the famine years of 1816–1817 played a crucial role in overcoming this deeply ingrained mindset. But a real shift in its importance came towards the end of the 19th century, when potatoes gained importance due to the decline in the production of spelt, oats, chickpeas, sorghum, and lentils.

Potatoes were once considered the bread of the poor, leading to the saying, "I have potatoes!" as a sign of luck.

 

In the 20th century, especially after World War II, Slovenia successfully developed its own potato varieties, earning a reputation as the "land of potatoes" due to their integral role in local dishes such as potato soup, goulash, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, potato dumplings and gnocchi. Slovenes even established societies dedicated to celebrating roasted potatoes as a standalone dish.

 

Today Slovenia cultivates and markets around 200 of the 3,000 worldwide known potato varieties. Despite a decline in potato production over recent decades, the country maintains self-sufficiency. This achievement is attributed to the cultivation of high-yielding varieties and the adoption of advanced agricultural technology, which together ensure consistently thriving harvests.


Photographic Chronicles: Potato Cultivation in the Slovenian Countryside, Early to Mid-20th Century

The majority of the photographic documents of potato cultivation were captured by the museum's curators of the Slovene Ethnographic Museum (SEM) during their field researches, and additional donations and acquisitions from various collections have added to the museum's photo archive on this topic. These photographs mainly represent the early to mid-20th century, a period when the museum conducted systematic field research in the Slovenian countryside.


Sorting of potatoes on the field, Rožnik, photo by B. Orel, 1948. Picture rights: SEM.


Potatoes in baskets on a waggon, Gradež, photo by B. Orel, 1948. Picture rights: SEM.


The horse pulls a potato plough through the furrows with potato, Mala Stara vas, photo by B. Orel, 1949. Picture rights: SEM.


Mowing the potato field, Šmarje - Sap, photo by B. Orel, 1949. Picture rights: SEM.


Picking up potatoes, Dolenja vas pri Polici, photo by J. Šusteršič, 1949. Picture rights: SEM.


Baskets with potatoes on the field, Dolenja vas near Polica. Photo by J. Šusteršič, 1949. Picture rights: SEM.


Digging potatoes with a hoe, Troščine. Photo by M. Matičetov, 1949. Picture rights: SEM.


Use of an old plough to work on the potato field, Dob. Photo by B. Orel, 1950. Picture rights: SEM.


Digging potatoes, Dob, photo by B. Orel, 1950. Picture rights: SEM.


Potato field in Trenta, photo B. Orel, 1952. Picture rights: SEM.


A housewife peels potato, Gorenje Vrhpolje, photo by B. Orel, 1952. Picture rights: SEM.


Potatoes are sorted and put in the cellar, Zali Breg, photo by B. Orel, 1953. Picture rights: SEM.


Driving potatoes in a wagon from the field with an ox, Hruševlje, photo by B. Orel, 1953. Picture rights: SEM.


Children carry the weeds they gathered from the potato field to feed to the livestock, Plužnje, photo by B. Orel, 1954. Picture rights: SEM.


Potato pit, Zadlog, photo by F. Šarf, 1959. Picture rights: SEM.


A field in a sinkhole, half a field of potatoes, half a field of barley, Kanji Dol, photo by F. Šarf, 1959. Picture rights: SEM.


Spraying potatoes, Skomarje, photo by M. Rupar, 1963. Picture rights: SEM.


Digging potatoes, Mali Ločnik, photo by B. Kuhar, 1964. Picture rights: SEM.


Ploughing for planting potatoes, Bučečovci, photo by M. Makarovič, 1976. Picture rights: SEM.


Ploughing for planting potatoes, Bučečovci, photo by M. Makarovič, 1976. Picture rights: SEM.


Planting potatoes, Bučečovci, photo by M. Makarovič, 1976. Picture rights: SEM.


Mother and her child are picking up potatoes. Picture rights: SEM.


Digging potatoes, Šentpavel, photo by F. Vesel, 1914. Picture rights: SEM.


Picking up potatoes, before WW2, photo by J. Skrlep. Picture rights: SEM.


Loosening the soil before planting potatoes, Spodnje Jablane, photo by T. Urbas, 1957. Picture rights: SEM.


Neighbours are helping to plant potatoes, Banovci, 1960. Picture rights: SEM.


The clear-cut belt for planting potatoes on the steep terrain of Pohorje near Lukanja, 1930. Picture rights: SEM.


Ploughing furrows for potatoes with a horse, Zdenska vas, photo by A. Novak, 1975. Picture rights: SEM.


Hoeing potatoes with a horse, Zdenska vas, photo by A. Novak, 1975. Picture rights: SEM.


On the way to plant potatoes, Zdenska vas, photo by A. Novak, 1967. Picture rights: SEM.


To the field to plant potatoes with the ox Miško, photo by I. Brezigar, 1997. Picture rights: SEM.


A boy in a miner's uniform peels potatoes. Picture rights: SEM.


Digging up potatoes, Kotmara vas, photo by B. Orel, 1956. Picture rights: SEM.


Digging up potatoes, Rute pri Štriholčah, photo by B. Orel, 1957. Picture rights: SEM.


Potato pickers are returning from the field, Orehovec, photo by M. Makarovič, 1975. Picture rights: SEM.


Planting potatoes, Studor, photo by M. Makarovič, 1976. Picture rights: SEM.


Planting potatoes, Stara Fužina, photo by M. Makarovič, 1976. Picture rights: SEM.


Picking up potatoes, Stara Fužina, photo by M. Makarovič, 1975. Picture rights: SEM.


Father and his daughter are picking up potatoes, Stara Fužina, photo by M. Makarovič, 1975. Picture rights: SEM.


Storing potatoes in crates, Selce, photo by I. Smerdel, 1982. Picture rights: SEM.


Picking up potatoes, Ribnica, photo by A. Petek, 1952. Picture rights: SEM.


Pot for cooking of potatoes, Dekani, drawn by Kristina Slak, 1949. Picture rights: SEM.


Basket for transporting potatoes, Šentpavel, drawing by F. Maček, 1950. Picture rights: SEM.


The potato storage in the cellar, Borjana, drawing by I. Romih, 1951. Picture rights: SEM.


Rake for planting potatoes and corn, Trenta, drawing by T. Bizjak, 1952. Picture rights: SEM.


Rake for planting potatoes and corn, Cerkno, drawing by I. Romih, 1954. Picture rights: SEM.

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