© 2020 The Authors. Antipode published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Antipode Foundation Ltd. The potato has been critical to plant–human assemblages both in South America and in Europe. A study of the capacities, or affordances of this plant within diverse political economies highlights its mutability in some circumstances and vulnerability in others. The contrasts are stark. In South America, peasant agriculture took the potato across a large and diverse ecumene allowing its elaboration into many varieties and sustaining extensive state systems that taxed its production. Spanish colonialism repurposed the plant as the calorific basis for concentrations of coerced labour at silver mines. Back in Europe it was initially the resistance of the potato to state violence that encouraged peasants to turn over their fields to a tuberous plant that “concealed” its food underground. But its calorific productivity per acre again saw it repurposed as peasants were converted to proletarians, allowed to subsist on only the smallest plots while working for landlords on larger estates.