How did the plain potatoes change the world?

BEIJING, March 6 (Xinhua) — A potato disease triggered a famine in the middle of the 19th century that caused nearly half of Ireland’s population to break down in just a few years, leading to decades of social and economic unrest, according tomedia reports. Today, the world’s largest producers of potatoes are China, India, Russia and Ukraine.

How did the plain potatoes change the world?

Although these countries have close and complex ties to potatoes, and society and economy are inextricably linked to potatoes, they are not the country of origin of potatoes. The plain-looking potatoes were domesticated in the Andean region of South America about 8,000 years ago, and were not first brought to Europe until the mid-16th century, before spreading to the West and North and back to the Americas and other regions.

“Although it originated in the Andean region, the globalization of this food has been very successful. “Food historian Rebecca Earle points out that she is working on a new book called Feeding Humans: The Politics of Potatoes that traces the spread of potatoes on Earth.” It can be said that potatoes are grown all over the world, and people all over the world regard them as ‘nationally specific food’. “

For other regions except the Andean, potatoes are not “native” but always give a sense of intimacy. No wonder Earl calls it “the world’s most successful immigrant” because producers and consumers around the world can’t figure out where it originated. The Same people in the United States, Italy and Peru think potatoes belong to them. Because the potato story is no longer a country or region, but rather a record of how humans have reshaped their relationship with land and food over several generations.

Potatoes are the world’s fourth-largest crop after rice, wheat and corn, and the largest among non-grain crops. How on earth did this and Ethnotuber, which is native to the Andes, gain widespread acceptance from humans around the world in just a few centuries? Potatoes are irresistible because of their unparalleled nutritional value, easier to grow than some major grains and to hide underground and avoid war and tax ation. Most importantly, it has also developed a deep “comradeship” with farmers who work in the fields.

How did the plain potatoes change the world?

The International Potato Centre has produced a map showing the potatoes’ journey around the world from the Andes.

The International Potato Centre (IPC) is a good way to help us understand the origins of potatoes. A research and development center for research and promotion of all potato-related products, located on the outskirts of Lima, Peru,, houses thousands of potato samples collected from all over the Americas. “The Andean region is the most genetically diverse, but potatoes can be found from Chile all the way to the United States. Rene G?mez, the centre’s senior curator, said.

He also explained that potatoes were first artificially bred near Lake Titicaca, near 1,000 kilometers southeast of Lima. Since then, these early potatoes have gradually spread to the other side of the mountain range and become an important food source for the First Nations. They also include the Incas, who make potatoes into a frozen-dried food called chu?o, which can be kept for years, if not decades.

Out of America

In 1532, the Spanish invasion ended the Inca Empire, but the cultivation of potatoes did not end there, and the invaders brought the tubers back to Europe, along with crops such as tomatoes, avocados and corn. Historians call this experience the Great Columbus Exchange. This is the first time in the history of potatoes out of the Americas.

These early Andean varieties of potatoes have experienced a difficult period of adaptation in Spain and other european countries. Evolutionary geneticist Hernan G. In the equatorial region where potatoes were first grown, the length of sunshine did not change much in a year, so potatoes are used to 12 hours of sunshine a day.

But Europe’s long summer sunshine makes the first-time potatoes feel overwhelmed. As a result, they stop growing in the warm summer months, but in autumn, but soon to the frosty winter. As a result, the first decade of potatoes in Europe did not go well.

But the Irish climate has been found to be more suitable for growing potatoes. The autumn sits there is cool enough, but not frosty, giving the potatoes enough time to mature. After a century of screening, a suitable potato variety has been developed. Potatoes have since become an essential food source for farmers.

Ordinary potatoes

Potatoes are highly valued by farmers because the nutritional value of potatoes per hectare is unmatched by other crops. In Ireland, tenants need to rent land to grow. So if the landlord raises the rent, the farmer will have to grow as much food as possible with as little land as possible. Sociologist James Lang wrote: “No crop produces more per unit than potatoes, is easier to grow, and is more resistant to storage.” “

With the exception of vitamins A and D, potatoes contain almost every important vitamin and nutrient the body needs, so no crop can match life support. Just keep the potato skins, plus some dairy products, to complement the two missing microorganisms, which constitute a healthy staple. For every 100 grams of potatoes you eat, you can even get 2 grams of protein. Every adult who eats 5.5kg of potatoes a day (estimated to have eaten so much in the mid-17th century) can guarantee enough protein intake.

For 17th and 18th-century Irish tenants, just one acre of potato fields and one cow could meet the nutritional needs of a family of six to eight. No grain can do this. As a result, Irish and British farmers began growing potatoes for centuries, which were rooted in land tenure and scarcity.

From England, potatoes gradually spread eastwards. By 1650, potatoes appeared in “low-lying countries” such as the Netherlands and Belgium; by 1740, potatoes had spread to Germany, Prussia and Poland; and by the 1840s, Russia had potatoes. After farmers’ choices, potato varieties that were not adapted to the local climate were gradually screened, and potatoes began to thrive and prosper.

The war-torn european villagers soon discovered another advantage of growing potatoes: it was hard to tax and be taken away. “If you plant a piece of wheat, it’s easy to find out, there’s no way to hide it. Earle points out that tax collectors will visually determine the size of the field and wait until the harvest to come back to collect taxes. But the potatoes grow in the ground, it is easy to hide, wait until the time to eat and then dig out one. “This harvest allows potatoes to evade the eyes of tax collectors and to protect farmers’ food supplies in times of war. James Long writes, “The plundered soldiers will take away the grain stored by the peasants, but rarely stop and dig the potatoes slowly.” “

The elite and military strategists of the time noticed this. King Frederick the Great of Prussia ordered the government to spread the way potatoes were grown in the hope that the peasants would still have food to eat during the invasion by the enemy. Other countries have followed suit. By the time the Napoleonic Wars broke out in the early 19th century, potatoes had become an important food reserve in Europe.

Historian William McNeil wrote in his 1999 paper, How Potatoes Changed World History, that because potatoes were so important during the war, “every war in Europe since 1560, to World War II, contributed to the growth of potato cultivation.” “

Nutrition and strength

In just a few centuries, potatoes have become the staple food crops in Europe and around the world. For decades, food historians have interpreted the rapid spread of potatoes as the result of a push by enlightened wise men, who believed they were fascinated by the nutritional value of potatoes and succeeded in persuading conservative people to adapt to accept ingenuity.

But Earl eisonies. She points out that farmers have adapted potatoes to The European climate, so they don’t need someone else to convince them. The elite is not discovering a new crop, but is more aware of what “healthy food” is. Instead of adding a “superfood” to the European diet, they realized the important role of nutrition in their diet before they started looking for crops that fit that goal. The plain potatoes were there, and had nothing to do with the promotion of these elites.

The enlightened discussion of the “people” and the significance of the people’s health to the country changed the political situation in the 18th century and the fate of potatoes. If a strong and large number of people are essential to economic production and military power, the State needs to fully understand and manage the nutrients in people’s food. In his 2018 paper, “Promoting Potatoes in 18th-century Europe,” Earl wrote that adequate, healthy food was crucial to the establishment of the empire. So the mania for potatoes is not because it is a brand new crop, but because Europeans have a new understanding of the relationship between food and the country.

In this respect, no crop is comparable to a potato. “A potato field produces far more food than a wheat field. Adam Smith writes in The Rich, “No food is more nutritious than potatoes, and no food is better for human health.” But while Adam Smith is right to stress the value of potatoes, it is the farmers, not the elite, that have really made them the “fixed configuration” of European farms.

But Earl admits there are still measurements. How did the scholars of Adam Smith’s time compare the nutritional value of different foods? In the 18th century, scientists didn’t know the words vitamins, proteins and minerals, saying only, “Look at the potato eaters who are stronger and stronger than others.” “

But Earl also points out that potatoes take on the responsibility of nation-building, not only because of their nutritional value, but also because they have been widely grown in European countries, and its fans naturally have to boast of their value.

And there’s nothing wrong with their praise. In a multi-referenced economics paper, the scientists reviewed the records of French soldiers born after 1,700 years and found that eating potatoes increased people’s height slightly. According to the journal Economics Quarterly, the introduction of potatoes in villages that are perfectly suited to grow potatoes has increased the average height of adult villagers by 1.5 inches.

The paper also makes a powerful claim that the populationofs in Europe and Asia exploded after the spread of potatoes. The introduction of potatoes increased the population and urbanization of Europe, Asia and Africa by nearly a quarter between 1700 and 1900, the researchers note.

“Potatoes have given some European countries control over most of the world between 1750 and 1950 by feeding a rapidly growing population. McNeil wrote.

Back to the Andes

This “potato fever” continued to spread and remained unstoppable until the Great Famine of Ireland, which broke out between 1845 and 1849. The massive crop failure, coupled with the failure of the British government to respond effectively, has killed a million people, sent a million migrants to the United States and two million fled to other parts of the world. Ireland’s population has halved in just a few decades.

The famine has brought to the attention that 80 per cent of the energy consumed by Irish people is supplied by potatoes. There are few crops other than potatoes. Food varieties are so single, and genetic diversity is gradually lost in the process of artificial cultivation, making potatoes vulnerable to disease.

To be fair, around the 1850s, there were hybrid potato varieties in Europe. Blibano analyzed the genes of European potatoes and traced their origins, concluding that ancient Andean species had been interbred with species from the lowlands of south-central Chile and had been artificially bred for a long time in the southern hemisphere.

The first hybrids did provide some useful traits, but the genetic depth was not enough, so years of breeding programs have been working to improve the supply stability of potatoes. “One of the ways breeders use them to increase their resistance is to start with wild potatoes. Burbano explained. He was referring to the species of potato relatives that still exist in and in and earlier. There are 151 known species of wild potatoes today, the ancestors of modern potatoes. And modern potatoes have lost their genetic diversity after feeding humans for centuries.

In the first decades of the 20th century, scientists began to combine the genes of major potato varieties in the hope of preserving the traits acquired through artificial cultivation and gaining resistance to disease in wild potatoes. Most of the potatoes that people grow today are the result of these breeding experiments.

These wild potato varieties may also help us solve another pressing problem: the climate crisis’s changes in temperature and rainfall. A recent study concluded that rising greenhouse gas emissions would reduce global potato production by up to 26 per cent by 2085. These wild breeds may provide some of the traits we need, such as frost, drought or high temperature resistance.

For years, breeders in Europe, the United States and Asia have been working to cultivate more resistant potato varieties that made them truly a global crop in the 20th century. Of the world’s top 20 potato producers, only the United States, Peru and Brazil are naturally growing potatoes in history, but each country has developed a special association with potatoes.

In India, potatoes are home to hundreds of cooking methods, and it’s hard to convince local farmers that they are actually imported.

Peru and Chile have been at loggerheads for years over who is the real country of origin of the potatoes. Celebrity chefs in both countries are also launching new dishes featuring potatoes.

Although Peruvians insist that potatoes were first domesticated on their own territory (and a small part of it in Bolivia), a Chilean minister retorted in 2008 that most of the world’s potatoes now come from a class of varieties imported from Chile. But the dispute is not about giving history lessons to everyone, it’s about national pride. “The best laugh is that potatoes appear a thousand years before the concept of a ‘country,'” says Charles Crissman, a researcher at the International Potato Center. “

Peruvians are furious because the comments were made during the 2008 Celebration of the International Year of the Potato. Peru established the International Potato Centre in 1971 and worked with indigenous groups on the mountain top to preserve the genetic heritage of potatoes.

There is a “potato park” in a small agricultural park in the High Andean region of Peru. It’s a living potato museum, not only intended to remind people where potatoes come from, but also to point out where potatoes will look in the future: the genetic material of wild potatoes may help them cope with new threats such as climate change.

And two hours’ drive from this potato park, a restaurant called Mil offers another perspective on the modern and future. This restaurant is located in the Andes at an altitude of 3,500 meters. Here you can enjoy the cuisine made from Peruvian potatoes and get a glimpse of the world beyond the mountains, such as Indian curries, British fish and chips, american baked potatoes and more.

And potatoes around the world cooking methods, how rich and diverse, will certainly play an infinite range of possibilities. (Leaf)