Here is another version (two, actually), on the arrival of the potato in
Ireland, plus other facts about that vegetable.
The potato is native to South America.
Most botanists agree that the area having the greatest diversity of wild
varieties of a certain plant is probably the center of origin. Which is why
we believe the potato is a native of South America. Specifically, the Andean
region. Many species of the tuberous plant can be found growing wild in
Peru, Ecuador and Chile.
The name of the famous potato, the world's number one vegetable is probably
a corruption of the Indian name for the plant -- patata or papa.
When explorers first encountered Peruvian Indians they found them preserving
potatoes by drying them in the sun. Something they still do today and
something apparently, they have been doing for a very, very long time.
Scientists believe the Peruvian Incas improved the wild potato of Peru,
which is small and bitter, as it slowly gained importance in their diet.
Prehistoric caches of dried potatoes have been found. The dried potatoes
could be pounded into flour, or reconstituted whole. It must have made a
fairly thick and nutritious soup. An important crop that could be preserved
from year to year, the potato, along with maize, was the underpinning of the
great Incan civilization.
The white potato was unknown in Central or North America until after Pizarro
conquered Peru and spread their potato culture via Spanish forts and ships.
Sweet potatoes were used in the West Indies and Central America and in the
Southern part of North America. They were referenced in the journals of
Columbus and Magellan. They were called "batatas".
The potato was brought to Ireland, in 1565, according to one story. Another
has it that Sir Walter Raleigh first grew it there in 1585. Either way, it
soon became a national mainstay in the Irish diet. The Irish introduced the
potato to New England in 1719, when Irish immigrants settled at Londonderry,
In Europe, a grain famine, in 1770, caused the potato to become an important
crop. A French leader, Parmentier, set up soup kitchens serving potato soup
to the starving masses. Today, in France, potato soup bears his name.
The potato helped change American history when in 1847--1848 a terrible
famine struck Ireland due to the failure of the Irish potato crop. It is
estimated 1,500,000 Irish people died, while another 1,000,000 emigrated,
chiefly to the United States of America.
And, all due to a lowly tuberous vegetable growing wild, first found by
prehistoric Indians living high in the Andean Mountains. The mysterious and
(end of article) Unfortunately, the authors here did not provide links as to
where they got their information about their assertions!
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