Potatoes: Their Origins, Development, and Significance in Come Cultures
The taste and texture of a tuber that is called a potato are known by almost any human on the planet. Potatoes are one of the essential food sources for humanity, taking fifth place among the most common crops worldwide (Mann, 2011). Nowadays, it is an efficient crop that contains a multitude of minerals and vitamins, easy to grow, and has a high output per square mile, yet it was not always so (Mann, 2011). This plant has been transformed into this state by cultivation from various cultures across the globe. Potatoes left a mark in the history of many countries, such as Chile and Peru, where they were cultivated initially, and then in multiple European regions, where they were made into a significant food source (Mann, 2011). This essay will discuss potatoes, their origins, how they developed throughout the ages, and their role in some cultures.
Geographic Concepts Analysis
The origin of potatoes was a subject of many studies in the past. Predecessors of modern potatoes can be found in the New World, where two distinct cultivation attempts were taken in that region (Begum, 2019). Modern cultivated potatoes take their origin in Chile and Peru, as it has been revealed that the modern plant is a combination of similar plants from these two locations (“The secret history of the potato,” 2007).
It is worth noting that Chilean potatoes are more adapted to growing in long-day climates (Gutaker et al., 2019). The beneficial properties of this crop were discovered by the first New World expeditions, which brought its samples into Europe, and now a significant part of the modern supply of potatoes comes from Eurasia (Gutaker et al., 2019). This shift was followed by significant cultural events that are worth discussing.
Being such a valuable plant, potatoes were eventually introduced to European countries, where the plant was changed to suit the needs of local populations. Initially, the plant was not well-suited to grow in any climate that differs from South America (Gutaker et al., 2019). The adaptation process was not entirely seamless, as potatoes were not suitable for growing in a different location, which led to their shrinkage and low productivity (Begum, 2019). It is thought that a genetic mutation or mixing of two different species helped with the situation, as plants were adapted to shorter days eventually (Begum, 2019).
Many historians argue that potatoes are one of the reasons behind the rapid growth of the human population, as their productivity and provided calories are exceedingly high (Nunn & Qian, 2011). A potato contains many vitamins, such as Vitamin C, that were difficult to obtain in a sufficient quantity for many people in European regions (Nunn & Qian, 2011). Therefore, this crop was one of the most well-suited for the locations it was introduced to.
The diffusion of this plant is also noteworthy from a cultural standpoint. Potatoes made their first appearance in Europe in the sixteenth century, although it took humans many ages to recognize their significance of this tuber (Nunn & Qian, 2011). There were significant reservations among consumers who refused to accept potatoes due to being a foreign and odd-looking product (Gutaker et al., 2019).
However, potatoes remained relatively similar between their origin and their new home, as even the methods of cooking a potato remained similar throughout the ages. Mann (2011) reveals that “Andean Indians ate potatoes boiled, baked and mashed, as Europeans do now” (para. 12). There were adverse events linked to potatoes in human history. The increase of potatoes with Andean ancestry played a vital part in the Irish potato famine in the nineteenth century (Gutaker et al., 2019). Nonetheless, this incident brought additional research to crop sustainability and made it more resilient than before.
Despite the long history of cultivation, potatoes did not experience a significant distance decay. Gutaker et al. (2019) state that “contemporary Chilean potatoes are very similar to modern potatoes in Europe,” although they all resemble European types more than historical Chilean ones (p. 1096). The initial array of potato species was vast, yet not many of those cultivated by Andeans were used (Jabr, 2015). After establishing the popularity of this crop in Europe, farmers began experimenting with its flavor and texture, although yellow potatoes remain the most widespread type (Jabr, 2015). Nowadays, people consume many different types of this tuber, as its popularity does not show any signs of waning.
In conclusion, potatoes played a crucial role in humanity’s development, as this plant was adapted to feed the human population with relative ease. Despite having issues along the way that caused crises in some countries, potatoes were diffused throughout the Old and New Worlds in a matter of few centuries. This plant remains essential for the Americas and Eurasia, as it took deep roots in their history. It is more adapted to long days in Chile and European countries. However, there are noticeable similarities between Chilean and European species, as they are located in similar climate rings. Potatoes played a vital role in many cultures, bringing both uprise and major crises, creating a compelling case to review.
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Gutaker, R. M., Weiß, C. L., Ellis, D., Anglin, N. L., Knapp, S., Luis Fernández-Alonso, J., … Burbano, H. A. (2019). The origins and adaptation of European potatoes reconstructed from historical genomes. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 3(7), 1093-1101. Web.
Jabr, F. (2015). Reinventing the potato. Web.
Mann, C. C. (2011). How the potato changed the world. Web.
Nunn, N., & Qian, N. (2011). The potato’s contribution to population and urbanization: Evidence from a historical experiment. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 126(2), 593–650. Web.
The secret history of the potato. (2007). Web.