Patent Preserved Potato
Edwards’ Patent Preserved Potato was the 19th-century equivalent of Smash. An advert from 1857 claimed that ‘This economical and pure Vegetable keeps good in all Climates, and is a preventative of Scurvy from the use of Salt Provisions’. A dish of mashed potatoes could be cooked in a few minutes at a cost of less than ½d per 8oz ration. The product also took up far fewer cubic feet than fresh potatoes.
Patent Preserved Potato had been used for many years by the Royal Navy, HM Emigration Commissioners, Greenwich Hospital, merchant shipping, and the East India Company. In 1841 the East India Company put a small quantity of Edwards’ Patent Preserved Potato on board three ships, Seringapatam, Northumberland, and Reliance, as an experiment for feeding troops on the outward voyage to India.
Surgeon F Chapman who was in medical charge of the troops on the Seringapatam reported that the potato had been fed to the troops twice a week. Chapman was enthusiastic about the potatoes, saying that he could ‘without hesitation speak of them in the most favourable terms, believing them to be highly nutritious and conducive to health and nearly if not quite as good as the fresh vegetable’.
The Medical Board at Fort William Calcutta also tested the dried potato. They thought the flavour ‘somewhat inferior’ to fresh potatoes but conceded that might have been caused by the sample coming from a cask which had been open for a long time, causing the contents to deteriorate. On the whole, the Board considered the product would be a useful article of diet in situations where fresh potatoes could not be obtained.
Preserved Potato was fed to British troops in the Crimea. The Times’ correspondent there said it was ‘too good to last’ and new supplies were awaited.
Professor of Chemistry, Dr Andrew Ure, provided an analysis of the nutritional value of the Preserved Potato – starch, ‘fibrine of demulcent antiscorbutic quality’, vegetable albumine, and lubricating gum. It was nearly as nutritious as wheat flour and more nutritious than peas, beans, sago, or arrowroot.
Purchasers were warned to ensure that they procured the genuine article which had brass labels and red cases marked with the name of the sole manufacturers: F King & Son, late Edwards & Co.
Lead Curator, East India Company Records
IOR/E/4/766 pp.125-127 Letter concerning the testing of Edwards’ Patent Preserved Potato on board ships, May 1841.
IOR/F/4/1987/87952 Report from the Medical Board on Edwards’ patent preserved potato, put on board the ship Seringapatam as an experiment for the use of the troops, 1841-1842.