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Browsing Category Potato History

Celebrating 150-plus years of potato production

Long before John A. Macdonald took office as this country’s first prime minister 150 years ago, there were potatoes growing in Canada. But before we go into the history of the potato, let’s go back to the very beginning. Potatoes originated in the Andes in South America and were taken to Spain around the year 1500. However, another 200 years or so passed before potatoes were recognized as a useful food source…

What’s in a Name?

Even though Shakespeare has very eloquently expressed that names are no substitute for substance (as Juliet tells Romeo: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”), names are nevertheless important. In many cultures, great emphasis is placed on the naming of newborn children — in some instances, first names may provide an indication of the cultural, political and social circumstances surrounding the…

What’s in a Name?

Even though Shakespeare has very eloquently expressed that names are no substitute for substance (as Juliet tells Romeo: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”), names are nevertheless important. In many cultures, great emphasis is placed on the naming of newborn children — in some instances, first names may provide an indication of the cultural, political and social circumstances surrounding the…

From Chuno to Vodka

Fresh potato consumption, once the mainstay of world potato utilization, is decreasing in many countries, especially in developed regions. Currently, more potatoes are processed to meet rising demand from the fast food, snack and convenience food industries. The major drivers behind this development include growing urban populations, rising incomes, changing diets and the diversification of lifestyles that leave less time for preparing fresh potatoes at home. This shift, in turn, is affecting…

Wild Potato Cousins

The potato probably has more related wild species than any other crop. These wild relatives grow through much of the Americas, from the United States southwest through Central America and then along the South American Andes Mountains from Venezuela through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and northwest Argentina. They also occur in the lowlands of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and southern Brazil. Over millions of years, various wild potato species have adapted to…

Domestication of the Potato

Domestication can be defined as the human creation of a new form of a plant or animal — one that is clearly different from its wild ancestors and relatives. Of the tens of thousands of plant species on the planet, only a few hundred have been domesticated. Of these, a dozen or so — including the potato — provide a large majority of the world’s food supply. The potato as we know it…

A Bug’s Life

The Colorado potato beetle is arguably the most devastating insect pest of potatoes, with most of the damage done by its voracious larva. This pest occupies an interesting place in North American potato history. Its first discovery in the United States was in the Rocky Mountains in 1811, when it was found feeding on sand bur, a wild relative of the potato. The name Colorado potato beetle is really a misnomer because…

Potato Showplace

If there’s a place that’s more appropriate for the Canadian Potato Museum, you can make the argument that you couldn’t do better than the town of O’Leary in Prince Edward Island. P.E.I., of course, produces a large portion of Canada’s potatoes. O’Leary, a town with obvious Irish origins, is host to the annual Potato Blossom Festival in July and is situated in the heart of farm country, surrounded by the beautiful red…

Unravelling the Mystery of Potato Curl

Long before the first outbreak of late blight, it became apparent in 18th century Europe that potato crops degenerated from one year to the next. The reasons for this were unclear, but initially the disease was given the name of “curl” because infected potato plant leaves tended to curl or roll. Subsequent crops planted with tubers harvested from infected crops produced increasingly lower yields, hence the idea that potato cultivars would degenerate…

The Potato Murrain – The Birth of Modern Plant Pathology

A short history of late blight, and the beginnings of the agri-chemical market. Because of both the economic and climatic conditions in Ireland in the eighteenth century, the potato quickly became the main food for the large Irish farm families who each had only a small amount of land from which to extract a living. The dependence of the Irish population on the potato became so great that when the late blight disease…

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