Adventures in Quarantine: The Potato Famine

At the beginning of quarantine/stay-at-home orders/isolation, it seemed like everyone was using the time to develop some new skill or try some new activity. I was no different. I decided I wanted to learn to grow food.

Specifically, potatoes. I’ve seen “easy-to-harvest” DIY potato planters on Pinterest and decided I wanted to give that a go. I’m Irish. Potato farming is in my blood, or something.

An image of a nested pot potato planter, where the inner pot has large cut outs with show many potatoes emerging through the dirt. A woman's hand is shown harvesting the potatoes and placing them into a bowl.
This would fit on my patio so easily and I would be swimming in spuds in no time!

The thing is, this was an experiment (and also I’m a broke college student), so instead of buying seed potatoes from one of the many reputable online sources, I turned to Amazon.

And that’s how you know this story isn’t going to end well.

I found a listing for “10 US grown organic seed potatoes” which would give me multicolored fingerling potatoes, for only five dollars and free shipping.

Image of a pile of fingerling potatoes of various colors, including purple, red, and white, against a pure white background.
Beautiful. I had grand dreams of roasting these babies with a big chunk of cow.

Fingerling potatoes sounded perfect for my small container gardening experiment. Certainly, they would fit better, because they are small. And if I failed my experiment, I was only out five bucks. What an incredible use of logic! Thanks, Brain!

I placed my order. I was given an estimated arrival date of June 3rd. This was back in March.

Really, there was no way this was going to end well.

I thought for sure the potatoes would arrive sooner. Amazon had been hit with a huge rush of orders as everyone panic bought everything from toilet paper to rubbing alcohol to Cheetos. They were projecting arrival times to be much longer than they actually were, just to make sure their supply could meet demand.

How in-demand could seed potatoes be? They’d probably ship them soon.

And ship them soon they did. In April, to be precise. With no tracking information to be seen, which told me these were not shipped from Amazon. I realized then that these weren’t shipping from the US, if there was no tracking information and my estimated arrival was still June.

Honestly, it was never, ever going to end well.

I periodically forgot I’d even ordered potatoes until I had to delve into my order history for one reason or another. My containers sat forlornly on our patio, waiting to provide me an endless amount of spuds to serve alongside roasts and in breakfast hash (never mind that fingerling potatoes would probably be awful in breakfast hash).

Finally, on June 2nd, 2020, the big day arrived! I opened my mailbox to retrieve a completely unrelated package and discovered…

An image of a small white parcel on a black background. The parcel has a label with customs information stamped on it. The recipient address is covered by a sticky note.

…a very tiny package similar to the mailers I get when I order things from Wish. But I haven’t ordered anything from Wish since before the pandemic reached the US, because ordering things from China when they were in the middle of a health crisis seemed like a bad idea. To my knowledge, I’d already received all my previous Wish orders (which are not many).

I was baffled.

I debated not even opening this suspicious, tiny, flat package. Especially since the customs label described its contents as “bead” but it really was perfectly flat. It didn’t feel like there was a bead in there.

I opened it with a pair of scissors. Scissors I then used to carefully pinch the top of a little plastic bag and pull it out without actually having to put my hand in. There, pinched in the tip of my scissors, was a tiny plastic bag of itty-bitty seeds.

A small plastic baggy filled with about 75 very tiny brown seeds, on a white background.

That confused me, because seeds are not a bead* and I know I didn’t order either seeds or beads. Also inside was a tiny slip of paper. This paper had my legal name on it, some random numbers that are meaningless to me, and the following description:

none-Fingerling Potatoes Mixed Colors-100pcs

This bag of (not) 100 tiny seeds were the “10 organic seed potatoes” I’d ordered from Amazon in March.

Of course, I immediately went to leave a horrible review and request a refund, because this was not even close to what was described when I ordered. I didn’t even know then just how not what I ordered this actually was.

Before leaving my review, I checked the other reviews to see if anyone had a similar problem. Admittedly, I should have done that before, but I figured five bucks wasn’t that big of a deal and I never expected a screw-up of this proportion.

One person mentioned that the seeds they’d received weren’t even potato seeds–they were corn! Which prompted me to internet search what potato seeds actually look like.

An image of a pile of golden yellow seeds, which resemble flakes of grain, against a white background.
True Potato Seeds

Bruh, my seeds ain’t it.

So, not only did I not receive the seed potatoes I ordered, but the seeds I did receive aren’t even potato seeds.

And that is why I cannot be a patio potato farmer. Which I guess is okay, because people have calmed down with their panic-buying and potatoes are super easy to get again.


*My mother and I suspect they labeled the package as “bead” because it is very expensive and requires a lot of paperwork to import seeds from foreign countries into the US. I am almost 100% sure these seeds were not sent to me legally.

To any US Department of Agriculture officers who may be reading this, please do not fine or arrest me; I am but a humble girl who dreams of being a potato farmer. Please do not hold me and my paltry tuber dreams responsible for the actions of these fraudulent vagabonds.

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