Britain in the seventeenth century was quite an unsettling place to live, what with Puritanism and superstition being the norm.
Women in particular were still being persecuted for witchcraft as depicted in the 1968 film The Witchfinder General starring a wonderfully snarling Vincent Price. It seems that a certain Alice Molland from Bideford in Devon was the last person hanged for witchcraft as late as 1686.
During the Civil War with royalty and parliament on opposing sides, families were divided, churches were burned and books destroyed. The works of the devil were all around for those who could see it. The potato was surely the work of Beelzebub with its voluptuous curves and suggestive shapes, not to mention its habit of swelling and multiplying when buried in the ground.
The fact that there was no mention of the humble spud in the bible further heightened suspicion particularly among Scottish and Irish Protestants.
The Catholic communities, however, were prepared to tolerate the vegetable provided it was ceremoniously planted on Good Friday and doused in Holy Water to keep the devil at bay. By the middle of the next century vegetable battle lines had been drawn between the Catholics who enjoyed their potatoes and the Protestants who preferred their parsnips,
In an electoral campaign in Lewes, Sussex in 1765; the Protestant candidate openly condemned the Catholic opposition with the battle cry “No Potatoes, No Popery”