Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Potatoes

The history of the potato has its roots in the windswept Andes Mountains of South America. It is a region plauged by fluctuating temperatures and poor soil conditions. Yet the tough and durable potato evolved in this thin air. The tough pre-Colombian farmers first discovered and cultivated the potato some 7,000 years ago.

Western man did not come in contact with the potato until the late 1537, when the Conquistadors tramped through Peru. And it was even later, about 1570 that the first potato made its way across the Atlantic to make a start on the continent of Europe. About 1780 the people of Ireland adopted the rugged food crop, its acceptance in Ireland was its ability to produce abundant nutritious food. Soon the potato would gain wide acceptance across Europe and eventually back over the Atlantic to North America.

The potato is a member of the nightshade family and its leaves are, indeed. poisonous. A potato left too long in the light will begin to turn green. The green skin contains a substance which can cause the potato to taste bitter and even cause illness in humans.

There are about five thousand potato varieties worldwide, three thousand which are found in the Andes. Potatoes yield abundantly with little effort, as long as the climate is cool and moist enough for the plants to gather sufficient water from the soil to form the starchy tubers. China is now the world's largest potato producing country. In terms of nutrition, the potato is best know for its carbohydrate content.

Potatoes are used to brew alcoholic beverages, such a vodka, and used as food for domestic animals. Potato starch is used in food industry as, for example, thickeners and binders of soup and sauces, and in the textile industry, as adhesives and for the manufacturing of papers and boards.

Today, the potato is so common, plentiful and pervasive in the Western diet that it is taken for granted. We forgot that it has only been with us for a few hundred years. And just think there are so many uses for it, such as mashed, fried, french fries, baked, raw, boiled, roasted and cubed, just to mention a few.

Sorry this was so long, but it was interesting to research, and this is just the tip of information on this delicious food. I am sure it will be included in the holiday meals, yum, yum, just thinking of those holidays spreads makes me hungry. Have a nice Thanksgiving.

6 comments:

Babli said...

Nice and informative post about potatoes. I was not aware of the history of potatoes and I would like to convey my thanks for sharing such a useful information. I love potatoes very much and any dish with potato is my favourite.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Most informative Margaret, where would we be without potatoes? whatever way they are cooked.

Thanks for the visits and comments.

Yvonne.

Linda said...

This is so interesting to read - great research, Margaret, as always.

Hope you and your family have a most blessed Thanksgiving.

Before that, we have my bday celebration tomorrow and then Thanksgiving Day, I'm cooking for 15 at our house.

Kind regards,
Linda

Becky and Gary said...

My relatives came from Ireland and survived the Potato Famine, when England took all the food from the Irish and left them with only bad potatoes.
Interesting article margaret.
PS My favorite is creamed potatoes and new peas..
B,.

dr.antony said...

You always come up with something interesting and informative.
We have something similar cultivated in Kerala,called tapioca (Manihot esculenta).It is a tuber of purely carbohydrate and gives excellent yield.Originated somewhere in the Amazon,it is the poor man's diet in many developing countries.

Denise said...

Another fascinating and informative post Margaret. I've been reading bits to hubby. He will tell you that the potato has always been my all time favorite vegetable. I could make a meal of the potato on it's own. Thanks for another great post, I really enjoyed it.

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