History of the Potato

basket-potatoesIt was in South America, between three and seven thousand years ago, when scientists believe the potato was first cultivated. According to genetic patterns, the potato most likely originated between the south of Peru and the northeast of Bolivia. The crop was sown from this area into the rest of the Andes and beyond.

The "tuber" was of significant importance to the Incan Empire. Learning how to preserve the potato by dehydrating and mashing them into a substance called chunu, the Incas could store potatoes in this form for up to 10 years, which helped to guard against possible crop failures.

The Spanish conquistadores first encountered the potato when they arrived in Peru in the early 1500s in their search for silver and gold. By the latter part of the century, Spanish farmers began to cultivate them mainly as livestock feed. Potatoes became a major food source during the Revolutionary War, when food shortages prompted the English government to promote potato cultivation.

According to history, the "tuber" was first introduced to the colonies in the early 1600s by the British governor of the Bahamas. Spuds became widely accepted in the northern colonies when Thomas Jefferson served potatoes to guests at the White House. From that point on, the potato steadily grew in popularity and has since become one of the most widely used foods in world cultures today.

Source: Chapman, Jeff. "The Impact of the Potato." History Magazine