Grandma’s Potato Tips. Who knew? ~ Pam Crooks

Who doesn’t love a potato?  Baked, boiled, fried, smashed, mashed or hashed, served with ranch dressing, sour cream, ketchup or just plain salt and pepper, they’ve been a staple in our diets for centuries.

Perhaps it’s only been recently that scientists have confirmed just how nutritious the vegetable is, too, particularly when cooked in its skin with little or no fat.  The potato is heaped with fiber, vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, iron, zinc and calcium.

But, of course, our grandmothers didn’t know that.  They only knew it filled bellies and grew cheap.  They also knew it had other benefits as well.

I’ve collected fun little pamphlets about recipes and remedies from our pasts and always enjoy reading how mothers and grandmothers took care of their families using what little they had.  Some were clever.  Some made me frown.  Some grossed me out.  But all were fascinating, and I’d love to share of few from my collection.

Medicinal Tips, in the patient’s own words:

“I had a wart on my hand as a child growing up in Brooklyn.  My mother cut a potato in half and rubbed it on the wart, then she buried the potato.  The wart disappeared and never returned.”

“When I had a headache as a child, my grandmother would slice a potato, put the slices on my forehead and tie them with a bandanna.”

“A potato poultice will give rapid relief from sunburn.  Grate raw potato and spread between two layers of gauze.  Apply to the face or other affected parts  For severe sunburn, a doctor’s advice is necessary.”

“To soothe swollen eyelids, apply raw potato cut in rounds each morning and evening.”

“If there is no broken skin, rub minor burns with a slice of raw potato.”

“When we were growing up in the 1920s (there were 14 of us kids), if we got sick, Mama cooked sliced potatoes on top of a wood stove. After the potatoes were brown on both sides, she put salt and homemade butter on them. We kids thought that was really worth getting sick for.”

**Disclaimer:  These tips are for your reading pleasure only.  I do not endorse them in any way. If needed, please consult your doctor.

Handy tips from the kitchen:

“To rescue over-salted dishes, put some rounds of raw potato in the middle of the dish.”

“Boiled potatoes for a salad will absorb less oil and taste better if you sprinkle them with white wine while they are still warm.  Add the dressing when they have absorbed the wine.”

“Rubbing a raw potato on your shoes before polishing them helps to make your shoes shiny.”

Of course, we can’t have a blog on potatoes without including a recipe, can we?

Cheesy Vegetable and Potato Soup

4 chicken bouillon cubes

1 1/2 cups of potatoes (I add more)

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup diced onion

1 20 oz bag California blend vegetables (or two 12 oz.)

2 cans 98% fat-free cream of chicken soup

1 lb lite Velveeta cheese

1 can chopped chilies

  1. In small stock pot, dissolve bouillon cubes in 4 cups of water.  Add potatoes, celery and onion.  Cook 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook California blend vegetables until tender.  Drain and chop into smaller pieces.
  3. Add to potato mixture and cook about 6 minutes.
  4. Add both cans of soup, the Velveeta cheese and chilies.  
  5. Stir to melt cheese and heat through.

Note:  I made this often when I was on Weight Watchers.  It’s surprisingly low in calories and so good!  You can use more potatoes and Mexican Velveeta cheese but they will be a bit higher in calories.

What about you, your mother or grandmother?  Did they use a potato for a home remedy?  What other home remedies did your family use?


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Pam has written 30 romances, most of them historical westerns, but her newest releases are contemporary sweet romances featuring the Blackstone Ranch series published by Tule Publishing. Stay up on the latest at

73 thoughts on “Grandma’s Potato Tips. Who knew? ~ Pam Crooks”

  1. Tobacco juice was used on wasp stings when I was a girl. Tomato juice was used to bathe the dogs or kids who got skunk sprayed. Strong syrupy coffee is used by my daughter even today for poison ivy blisters.
    Mostly we just ate the potatoes.

    • I had to laugh at “Mostly we just ate the potatoes.” Too funny and true for most everyone.

      What great home remedies, Jerri! Tomato juice for getting skunked? Interesting!

  2. What a fun blog, I learned a lot. Thanks for the recipe.
    A sliced onion left by the bed of someone sick will absorb the infection in the room. Also a sliced opinion put on the bottom of your foot wrapped up will pull toxins out of your body. BUT PLEASE THROW THE ONION AWAY, do not EAT IT! Lol

  3. A lot of cool home remedies and the recipe sounds yummy!

    I once had many bees stings on the bottoms of my feet after running out my front door and the slamming of the screen door brought down a beehive and I ran through bees. My mother made some sort of paste using oatmeal and put the concoction on my feet. I asked her what it was once and she couldn’t even remember. Darn it! I’m assuming it was just this paste used for bug bites though:

    Make an oatmeal paste by mixing equal amounts of oatmeal and water in a bowl until you have a spackle-like substance. Spoon some paste onto a washcloth and hold it, paste-side down, on the irritated skin for about 10 minutes. Then wipe the area clean. If you have many bites, try an oatmeal bath instead.

    Potato remedies past down: use a slice of potato when you burn yourself in the kitchen to pull the sting out of the burn. Potatoes hold heat well, so warm one up and wrap it in a dishcloth and use as a hot compress! Keep a potat in the freezer and use it as a cold compress.

    Loved your blog! Thanks for sharing!

    • Ooh, great ones, Stephanie! I’m going to remember using potatoes for hot or cold compresses if I need a remedy in one of my books.

      I remember going camping in Yellowstone when I was young. My father wrapped hot bricks and put one at the foot of each of our sleeping bags and promptly scorched each one. But we were warm!

  4. My paternal grandmother was from Norway but never used potato’s for anything other than eating. I don’t think they had much in the way of potato’s over there and my mother was always too busy working.

  5. I can’t remember any home made remedies. But I’m sure some were used when I was a child, so many, many years ago.? Such interesting blog posts.

  6. I don’t ever remember potatoes being used as a home remedy, but I have to agree with you about the sliced browned potatoes with butter on them is definitely worth getting sick for. I want some now.

    • Ha! I’m suspect chicken soup or tomato soup or your favorite stew would have the same effect. It’s all about the loving care our mothers and grandmothers gave us when we were sick that make us feel better. We all need the attention, don’t we?

      Thanks, Janine!

  7. interesting facts. not that I know of both my grandmothers lived in other states so didn’t see much of them, I do remember making a light bulb work in science class with a potato

  8. I don’t know of any potato remedies other then some that you mentioned. I know my mother always cooked potatoes at every meal and I am about the same way when it come to fixing supper.

    • Potatoes are definitely a staple at the dinner table. So versatile. I can’t think of another vegetable that you can do as many different dishes with like you can with a potato.

      They’re supposedly low in calories, too. Not starch so much. But it’s the goodies we put WITH the potatoes that make them not so good for our waistlines.

  9. Baking soda was used to soothe bee stings. Onions too.
    Loved the recipe you shared and that it was WW friendly.
    Thank you for such an interesting blog! Loved it.

  10. Heard of potato for warts. And tobacco for bed stings. Also a dirt dobber’s nest, ( a Kentucky slang for wasp). For a baby’s diaper rash..

  11. our family has a potato soup recipe that has “drop noodles” in it and only other recipes somewhat like it online are called “German Potato Soup!”

  12. Hi Pam. Your blog was really interesting. I didn’t realize how many ways potatoes were used for medical purposes. I think I’d heard about putting a sliced potato on your eyes, but have never done it. Thank you, sister Filly, for a great post, but most of all thank you for working on this special week to make it fun! Big hugs, Phyliss

  13. I love to visit here! Your post is so interesting! My mother and daddy always ate a teaspoon of mustard to relieve a muscle cramp. Another one was to make a paste of soda and water for a bee sting.

    • Oh, my goodness. Mustard for a muscle cramp!!! Fascinating!

      Speaking of mustard, my husband’s mother was trying to wean him off the breast when he was a baby, so she put mustard on her nipple, and he never nursed again. To this day, 64 years later, he still HATES mustard.

      I thought it was kind of mean of her, but oh, well.

      Glad you love what we do here at P&P, Melanie. We love you, too!

  14. Pam, that little anecdote about when they were sick their mom cooking potatoes brought back memories! When I got sick, Mama always wanted to make me scrambled eggs (I was not an “egg” person!) or chicken soup. But what I wanted was homemade hash browns! She had a little small skillet that was perfect for making the right amount for 1 or 2 people, and that’s what she’d use for those occasions. When I told her what I wanted, she’d always make a face and say, “OH, CHERYL! Hash browns? Those are so greasy! I don’t think that’s a good idea…” but off she’d go and make them and I could ALWAYS eat those!

    I didn’t know that about rubbing raw potato on a burn though. So much interesting stuff out there! This was such a fun post, and has been a fun special week, too! And that recipe for your potato soup? Well, let’s just say they are talking “fallish weather” next weekend and I know what we will be eating! That looks wonderful!

  15. I don’t know of any potato remedies, but here’s an onion remedy from mom: onion milk! All you need is a small piece of onion and/or 1-3 clove of garlic and milk. Cut onion or garlic to smaller pieces and add to boiled milk for a few minutes. Sift onion or garlic from the milk and drink. I would have to be really sick before I would even consider drinking this. Yech! Personally I prefer eucalyptus honey added to my tea.

  16. I have two things I do with potatoes besides eating.
    1: Cast Iron pan. Pour salt in the cast iron. Cut potato in half then use 1 of the halves cut side down on salt and scrub. Don’t use water. It really helps helps clean you pan. Use hot water to rinse real good. Put a little olive oil and rub all over the inside. Put in over at 250• and leave in oven for and hour.
    2: When making homemade pinto beans. Poke a few holes in a whole potato and put in pot with beans. It help with the gas problem after you eat pintos. WARNING: DON’T EAT THE POTATO!!!
    I told my granny about this and she put the potato in the pot of beans and cooked them. WELL, she and my uncle thought the potato looked so good. They ate it!!! Remember the potato absorbs the gas. Granny told me they thought they were going to die. The gas was so much worse in that potato. They moaned and groaned and had major gas problems for the rest of the day and night. I told her: DON’T EAT THE POTATO! ??? She always put a potato in her beans now and she never gets gas from eating pinto beans. Always throw that dangerous potato in the garbage. Don’t give to dog either.

    I use both of these ideas all the time.

  17. Oh, my gosh, Pam, this is one of my favorites!! I avoid cooking beans for that very reason – who wants to get gassed up? But a potato is a GREAT solution!!

    How amazing that it absorbs the gas. Who ever thought to use a potato?

    Good stuff!!

  18. I’ve never heard of potatoes for remedies for things. I have heard of baking soda and water to make a paste for bee stings. Something that my Uncle told my Mom to do for me when I had the croup as a child that we still do when I get a bad cough is mix honey, lemon juice and whiskey together. It cuts the cold, plus the whiskey means I’ll sleep at night!! My Uncle told Mom to get some Old Man Boston Rock and Rye when he first told her about it, as it had rock candy in it. It tastes terrible, but it works!

    • I love this, Trudy! Of course, you know many (if not all) of the elixirs and tonics in the old days had high percentages of alcohol in them, so it’s not surprising your uncle suggested a little whiskey for a cold. Lemon juice? An interesting addition. But sleep is so important when we’re sick that if takes a little whiskey to help us rest, well, heck, maybe it’s not so bad, right?

      Great comment!

  19. For a lingering cough we didn’t use cough medicine instead we used ginger. Potatoes we enjoyed during the long, cold winters. My grandmother made the most delectable scalloped potato casserole.

  20. Sunburns were treated with a mixture of oatmeal, and honey which was soothing and worked well. Potatoes are mixed with other root veggies and roasted and then we savor every bite.

  21. My Pennsylvania-German side always put speck on burns–now we know it isn’t the right thing to do, but I remember my great aunts and my grandma telling us to “put some speck on it.” Speck is pork fat.

    I always loved my mom’s cream of potato soup. It was simple, but it tasted good. Sometimes, she added rivels. Rivels are a a type of quick noodle from egg and flour.

    In Pennsylvania-German (mistakenly called Pennsylvania-Dutch by most), they’re not dumplings. And, the Chicken Bott Boi (pot pie) is crustless, more like a stew. Don’t call the noodles dumplings, please. 🙂

  22. Aw, I love this, Denise. The speck probably worked like a salve, don’t you think?

    My mother was German, but she rarely cooked German foods. My father was Italian, and it seemed she catered to his preferences more than her own.

    Great to see you, as always!

    • I’ve never used a potato for a remedy, either, Colleen. I guess I have a medicine closet full of over-the-counter aids to use instead, but I’ve learned so much today, I’m going to try a potato sometime!

  23. Pam, I dearly love potatoes, especially fried ones with onion. When okra is ripe, I slice that up in my potoatoes and onions. Very yummy. I’ll eat them mashed and baked too. Love the receipe. My mom used to make this when she knew I was coming to visit. It’s soooo good. But you have to stand over it and keep stirring or the cheese will scorch in the bottom of the pan. This soup is so delicious and perfect in winter. I’m going to have to make some soon! Thanks for the reminder! 🙂

    • I’ve never had okra! I wonder if it’s more of a south thing than it is here. I’ve seen breaded and fried okra in just a few restaurants that offer it as an appetizer, but never had it. I trust you! If you say it’s good, then it is, and I’ll have to make sure I try some soon.

      Thanks for stopping by, Linda!

    • Every post this week has been fun, haven’t they, Caryl? I learned tips today just like everyone else did. Our dear friends here at P & P are always quick to join in and share.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  24. Neither my grandmother or my mother used potatoes. When I got sick grandma would make soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I still want it when I get sick.

    • Aw, that’s sweet, Vicki. Even after we’re all grown up, those childhood feelings stay with us, don’t they? Doesn’t matter what comfort food we need, just that we get it and are comforted, right?

      Thanks for joining in!

  25. Not necessarily a home remedy but a potato can be used to take a broken lightbulb out of the socket of a lamp or light fixture. Just push the cut side of a potato onto the metal part that screws into the light and turn. I have done this with an incadescent bulb but I don’t know if it works with some of the newer bulbs. Be sure to turn the light off before trying this.

  26. No, no potato for home remedies that i am aware of them using. I do love potatoes. Yummay! I’m copying down this recipe! Sounds delish! Have a great day! 🙂

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