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Exploring history
 
 

Exploring history

The potato and its origins

Let?s disentangle the true from the false...

The origin of the potato is undisputed. When the conquistador Francisco Pizarro set foot on the Peruvian coast in 1524, he found that the Incas had been growing and harvesting potatoes for centuries. Together with the corncob and the bean, it sustained them all year round and was the staff of life for the peoples of the Andes Cordillera. 

But the Spanish rode over the "papa" in hot pursuit of Peru­vian gold and silver unaware of the buried treasure beneath their horses' feet. It wasn't until the first part of Pedro de Cieza de L?on's "Cr?nica del Peru? was published in Seville in 1553 that Europeans first heard of the "papa". The Italian Girolamo Cardano (1501‑1576) and the Spanish Jesuit missionary Jos? de Acosta (1540‑1600) also mention it in their work.

The potato's adventures from the Andes to Europe have been recorded in countless scholarly and convincing texts. However, in order to get the potato implanted as a panacea against food shortage, extreme poverty and famine, devastating wars and sometimes even authoritative methods first had to be endured. And, finally, before it was considered wor­thy of being served at the tables of the great, and became an inexhaustible source of pleasure to the gourmet's palate, a good deal of imagination had to be stirred. Isn't it amazing that the potato didn't become a large‑scale consumption product through­out Europe until the beginning of the 19th century?


Under english colours

The Spanish trail