Celebrating the Peruvian Potato

Celebrating the Peruvian Potato

Mike Dreckschmidt

Today, May 30th, is National Potato Day in Peru, home of the tuber that changed world history.

Did you know the potato originated here in Peru? If you follow our website we have made the point to mention it. Europe never knew the potato until the Spanish began to colonize the west coast of South America in the land of the Incas in the 1500s. After arriving on the mainland, it spread throughout Europe within four decades and eventually misuse of the potato was responsible for events such as the well known Irish Potato Famine in the 1840’s which caused the great migration of Irish to the Americas.

Why misuse you ask? The English used Ireland as their “potato plantation” which eventually led to the Irish Potato famine, the disaster occurred because the food source for the population as well as the economy only relied on one variety of the tuber, according to Berkley. If they had just brought more varieties of the 3000 plus that Peru has to choose from, they might have been spared one of history’s greatest disasters.

Suffice it to say that with so many cultivated varieties of just potato alone, it is likely that the Incas never had too much problem with plagues. The Inca government collected and distributed resources throughout the empire in the cases of droughts or other issues that may have destroyed crops, so if we are talking about the issue of food security for the population, an argument can be made that the Incas were far more advanced than the Europeans even three or four centuries later. Their empire was connected by the Inca Trail which spanned throughout Peru and parts of Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, and even northwestern Argentina upon which the goods were distributed.

Food staples are often overlooked in the grand scheme of how things play out. That’s why today, all over Peru, we celebrate the little tuber that changed history.

How will you celebrate National Potato Day?

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