Potatoes - history, production, trade
Fried, baked, boiled, sliced, mashed: the potato somehow is always present in our menu, tickling the appetite of young an old. The production of potatoes is rising everywhere, thanks to the success of this special tubers and to the infinite way in which they can be cooked and enjoyed without losing their organoleptic qualities.
The etymology of the word potato derives from batata, a Caribbean word that actually refers to the sweet potato.
The origins of the potato go back to more than 4000 years ago, between Chile and Peru, where the populations of the Andean Mountains already cultivated and enjoyed it. Thanks to a long experience in the cultivation and to the production of potatoes, these populations made up a considerable set of potato varieties that are suitable to almost any world climate and therefore contribute to an increase of the trade of potatoes on a worldwide scale. Potatoes arrived in Europe around 1570 thanks to the Spanish, who carried some potato varieties on merchant ships coming back from the New World; nearly after fifty years potatoes were known also in England and Ireland, where they were immediately used in the diet of poor people as they were considered to be a poor food.
Also the long life of potatoes after the harvesting encouraged the employment of this tuber in the diet and its trade, in a period when it was very difficult to store food and dishes for long time.
The French instead were more reluctant and did not use potatoes in their diet, believing that the potato caused leprosy: the production of potatoes and the consumption of potatoes spread also in France only thanks to the chemist Parmentier, who tested the beneficial properties of the potato during the Seven Years’ War when he was prisoner of the Prussians.
The United States are, on the contrary, an odd case: there, the potato became known only after the exportation of potatoes from Ireland, despite the fact that the production of potatoes took place just in the American continent.
The botanical name of the potato is Solanum tuberosum and it is a herbaceous plant from the Solanaceae family, to which belong thousand of species, among which tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and the tobacco plant.
The underground part of the plant is formed by the roots and by runners that can be more or less extended, at the ends of which come up the tubers commonly called potatoes; just the latter are the product for which usually the potato is cultivated. Both the flesh and the skin can have different colours depending on the variety. The tubers have buds in a spiral disposition, while the aerial part is formed by one or more stems. The potato flowers are bell-shaped, their colours range from white to violet and the fruits are green or yellow berries that contain many seeds.
Visit our website www.zipmec.eu and look up for the list of potatoes’ farms on the most wide and up to date database for fruits and vegetables.