March 2011— Warminster, Pa. — St. Patrick’s Day remains one of the nation’s most celebrated holidays nearly 250 years after the first American celebration took place in Boston in 1762. While a few traditions have changed, the ceremonial planting of potatoes around St. Patty’s Day remains strong, according to Burpee Chairman and CEO George Ball.
“Customer interest in potatoes has remained consistently strong year after year at Burpee,” says Ball, noting the hike in potato sales the company experiences yearly during the weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day. “This data proves that planting potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day continues to be a deeply rooted tradition.”
Potatoes have an intriguing history in Ireland that goes back to the 1600s, when Britain introduced the vegetable as an ideal food source for their first colony’s peasant population. By the 1840s, this nutritious vegetable had helped to decrease infant mortality rates in Ireland and helped make the Irish people literally stronger than their British rulers.
Although the Great Potato Famine destroyed potato crops across Ireland in the early to late 1840s, it spurred new plant breeding programs and the introduction of disease-resistant potato varieties. The famine is credited by many historians with stimulating modern agricultural science.
“The potato’s history underpins it as a unique symbol of strength,” says Ball. “Combined with the usual proximity to the first day of spring, St. Patrick’s Day potato planting is a deeply ingrained Irish tradition.”
ABOUT BURPEE: W. Atlee Burpee & Co. was founded in 1876 and is based in Warminster, Pennsylvania. Today, Burpee is the largest, most innovative seed company in the United States, offering seeds, garden plants and gardening supplies through the Burpee website at www.burpee.com, direct-mail catalogs, and via its 15,000 retail garden center customers throughout the country. You can visit Burpee at www.burpee.com, or call us toll-free at 1 (800) 888-1447. W. Atlee Burpee & Co.