By 1750, the potato had been acclimatised to the Irish climate and spread into Connaught (where the lazy-bed was invented) and Leninster, where it became the main food for the farm labourers.The two main problems that were found were (a) potatoes could not be stored for longer than 9 months or so, meaning that there was a lean period in the summer before the new crop was harvested.This was solved by growing a small number of green crops and by feeding scraps to pigs who could be eaten or sold in the summer.In the east, the farmers were converting to tillage (oats, grain) while Ulster's land was turned over to growing flax for the Irish linen industry.By the early 1800s, the population had reached such a level (over 8 million by the start of the famine) that many of the farmers and farm labourers became almost wholly dependant on the potato.> Next > Prelude to Famine 3: Economics > This section was largely based on the research of Professor Kevin Whelan as published in "The Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape", Cork University Press, 1997. .
History of the potato
 Cultivation of potatoes in South America may go back 10,000 years, but tubers do not preserve well in the archaeological record, making identification difficult.The earliest archaeologically verified potato tuber remains have been found at the coastal site of Ancón (central Peru), dating to 2500 BC. Aside from actual remains, the potato is also found in the Peruvian archaeological record as a design influence of ceramic pottery, often in the shape of vessels.The first written mention of the potato is a receipt for delivery dated 28 November 1567 between Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Antwerp.The earliest archaeologically verified potato tuber remains were found at the coastal site of Ancón (central Peru), dating to 2500 BC. From isotopic analysis of human skeletons and archeological reference materials, tubers and potatoes were an integral part of the Andean diet throughout the formative and Tiwanaku periods, alongside the grain quinoa and animals such as llamas.Aside from these remains, in the Peruvian archaeological record, the potato was uncovered as a design influence of ceramic pottery in the Altiplanos, often in the shape of vessels. These vessels represented potatoes in three ways: as clear depictions of the vegetable, as embodying a human form (either mutilated or not) or as transition between the two.The Andean people also prepared a dish called papas secas, which was a process that involved boiling, peeling, and chopping.These potatoes were then fermented in order to create toqosh: and ground to a pulp, soaked, and filtered into a starch referred to as almidón de papa.Moreover, this long shelf life allowed it to be the staple food for the Inca Armies due to how well it maintained its flavor and longevity.Sailors returning from the Andes to Spain with silver presumably brought maize and potatoes for their own food on the trip. In 1553, in the book Crónica del Peru, Pedro Cieza de León mentions he saw it in Quito, Popayán and Pasto in 1538.Basque fishermen from Spain used potatoes as ships' stores for their voyages across the Atlantic in the 16th century, and introduced the tuber to western Ireland, where they landed to dry their cod.In 1588, botanist Carolus Clusius made a painting of what he called "Papas Peruanorum" from a specimen in the Low Countries; in 1601 he reported that potatoes were in common use in northern Italy for animal fodder and for human consumption.It was grown for flowers by Rudolph Jakob Camerarius (1588) and others; John Gerard added the first printed picture of the potato to Herball (1597), although he thought that the plant was native to Virginia. In France and Germany, government officials and noble landowners promoted the rapid conversion of fallow land into potato fields after 1750.Famines in the early 1770s contributed to its acceptance, as did government policies in several European countries and climate change during the Little Ice Age, when traditional crops in this region did not produce as reliably as before. At times and places when and where most other crops failed, potatoes could still typically be relied upon to contribute adequately to food supplies during colder years.The potato had a large effect on European demographics and society, due to the fact that it yielded about three times the calories per acre of grain while also being more nutritive and growing in a wider variety of soils and climates, significantly improving agricultural production in the early modern era.By the late 18th century, Sir Frederick Eden wrote that the potato had become "a constant standing dish, at every meal, breakfast excepted, at the tables of the Rich, as well as the Poor.".In former European colonies of Africa, potatoes were initially consumed only occasionally, but increased production made them a staple in certain areas.Prior to the 1994 Rwandan genocide, consumption was as high as 153 to 200 kg per year – higher than in any Western European country.Peter Boomgaard looks at the adoption of various root and tuber crops in Indonesia throughout the colonial period and examines the chronology and reasons for progressive adoption of foreign crops: sweet potato (widespread by the 1670s), ("Irish") potato and bengkuang (yam beans) (both locally abundant by the 1780s), and cassava (from the 1860s).In India, Edward Terry mentioned the potato in his travel accounts of the banquet at Ajmer by Asaph Khan to Sir Thomas Roe, the British Ambassador in 1675.In 1812 the Russian-American Company's Fort Ross planted a crop, the first in western North America and possibly a second, independent introduction into the continent.King Louis XVI and his court eagerly promoted the new crop, with Queen Marie Antoinette even wearing a headdress of potato flowers at a fancy dress ball.Potatoes yielded from two to four times more calories per acre than grain did, and eventually came to dominate the food supply in Eastern Europe.In the German lands, Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, strove successfully to overcome farmers' skepticism about the potato, and in 1756 he issued an official proclamation mandating its cultivation.It served as a cheap source of calories and nutrients that was easy for urban workers to cultivate on small backyard plots.Potatoes became popular in the north of England, where coal was readily available, so a potato-driven population boom provided ample workers for the new factories.In Ireland, the expansion of potato cultivation was due entirely to the landless labourers, renting tiny plots from landowners who were interested only in raising cattle or in producing grain for market. Potatoes are Canada's most important vegetable crop; they are grown commercially in all its provinces, led by Prince Edward Island.Beginning in the 1960s Chilean agronomist Andrés Contreras begun to collect neglected local varieties of potatoes in Chiloé Archipelago and San Juan de la Costa. The collection of Contreras became the groundwork for the gene bank of Chilean potatoes at the Austral University of Chile in Valdivia. Contreras reciprocated local comunities by genetically improving varieties aimed for small scale agriculture. .
The Introduction of the Potato into Ireland
Isn’t it ironic that the conquistadors of Spain, who first brought the potato to the attention of those outside the Americas, were relatively indifferent to the vegetative gold that they stumbled upon in the 1530s?In contrast, the potato found in Peru and Colombia (subspecies andigena) is adapted to the shorter days of tropical latitudes and does not tuberise in Europe until very late in the season when the natural day length has shortened to more or less twelve hours in late September and early October.Redcliffe Salaman writing in the 1940s was adamant that the length of time needed to transport potatoes to Spain from Chile would have resulted in the death of any tubers.They could only tuberise in the shorter days of the European autumn, and grow in milder regions of Ireland, Spain, Italy, etc.. We know this from the evidence provided by contemporary botanists.Columbus and his men never saw a tuber of solanum tuberosum, nor did the conquistador Hernán Cortéz (1485-1547) encounter the plant in Mexico.The Hospital de la Sangre in Seville was buying potatoes as part of their housekeeping as early as 1573.Gerard was a popular man who was often presented not only with rare plants and seeds from different parts of the world but also with offers to supervise the gardens of noblemen.The potato as we know it was completely unknown in North America until the seventeenth century, and wasn’t cultivated there until the 1720s when introduced by settlers from Ulster.Sir Robert’s grandfather and great-uncle were the sons of Richard Southwell of Spixworth in Norfolk and his wife Alice Cornwallis.Under royal patent granted by Elizabeth I in 1584 to Ralegh, a group of colonists left for North America in April of that year, to map out a route and prepare the way for the main party, which was to follow.Ralegh had sent his friend and colleague, English mathematician and astronomer, Thomas Harriot (1560-1621), as a scientific adviser for the expedition of 1585-86.That Ralegh planted potatoes at his Myrtle Grove estate at Youghal, County Cork is probably more myth than fact.As to Ralegh’s voyages, only one touched the coast of Ireland on the return journey, and that at Smerwick, County Kerry, with the crew half-starved.Drake returned to Plymouth in August 1573 after several successful ventures against the Spanish, but had to put to sea again as the friends of Spain were just then in the ascendant at Elizabeth’s court.It is rather unlikely that Drake seized potatoes from the Spanish when there was more valuable cargo to be had, but the period after his return from South America in the autumn of 1573 is an obscure one in his life.While he did serve under the Earl of Essex in suppressing a rebellion in Ireland, he does not emerge into the clear light of history until two years later.It is recorded in The World Encompassed (1628), that Drake obtained potatoes by barter from the Indians of the Islands of Mocha, off the coast of Chile in November 1578: ‘we being on land, the people came down to us to the water side with shew of great curtesie, bringing to us potatos, rootes and two very fat sheepe’.Burton in the 1980s, contrary to Salaman, that potatoes given only the slightest of care will sprout little tubers and survive in the most inhospitable of environments.Having completed his renowned second circumnavigation of the globe in November 1580, he was honoured by a visit from Queen Elizabeth I, who dined with him on board his ship, the Golden Hind (formerly the Pelican), which was lying at Deptford in the Thames estuary, but there is no record of potatoes appearing on the menu.If potatoes came from Virginia in 1586 they must already have been on Sir Francis Drakes’ ships and he may have acquired them from the sack of Cartagena on the coast of modern day Colombia.Drake fulfilled his commission, capturing Santiago in the Cape Verde Islands and taking and plundering the cities of Cartagena, St Augustine in Florida, and San Domingo in Hispaniola.Drake left Cartagena on 30 March 1585, after picking up the colonists from the failed Roanoke settlement in Virginia, he arrived in Plymouth on 26 July 1586.On 16 March, 1587, Thomas Cavendish (1560-1592) English navigator and leader of the third circumnavigation of the globe, stopping at St Mary Island, near Concepción, southern Chile, found ‘cades of straw filled with potato rootes, which were very good to eat, ready made up in the storehouses for the Spaniards, against they should come for their tribute’.Ever since passing through the Straits of Magellan, Cavendish had attacked Spanish settlements and shipping from the Chilean coast up to Mexico.Cavendish like Drake returned to England around Cape Horn, and arrived in Plymouth on 9-10 September 1588, with only one of his ships, the Desire, and much plunder.Certainly Cavendish had ample opportunities to lay his hands on potatoes during his expedition, but whether he did actually bring back tubers among the proceeds of his exploits will probably never be known.Overseas exchanges with Spain and France involving the export of hides and fish, and imports of wine and cloth were quite substantial.Given that the potato thrived in Ireland from a very early date (but not in Europe), it was probably solanum tuberosum rather than andigena that was introduced.Certainly 1586 would seem to be the earliest feasible date for introduction to Ireland, and 1600 the latest, since the potato was already being grown in John Gerard’s London garden in 1596.
A short history of the potato – The Irish Times
The humble spud, we are told, is the best package of nutrition in the world, being rich in calories, minerals, vitamins and protein and virtually free of fat.It has been found that the ideal conditions for the spread of the disease are a relative humidity greater than about 90 per cent, and temperature in excess of about 10 C, both occurring simultaneously over an extended period.The earliest observed occurrence was on May 17th in Co Wexford, and the worst period was during the first two weeks of August, when the severe flooding in the south was followed by a spell of the warm, thundery, humid weather that makes Phytophtora so vigorously infestans. .
Irish Potato Famine
Because the tenant farmers of Ireland—then ruled as a colony of Great Britain—relied heavily on the potato as a source of food, the infestation had a catastrophic impact on Ireland and its population.In addition, any Irish who practiced Catholicism—the majority of Ireland’s native population—were initially prohibited from owning or leasing land, voting or holding elected office under the so-called Penal Laws.English and Anglo-Irish families owned most of the land, and most Irish Catholics were relegated to work as tenant farmers forced to pay rent to the landowners.Complicating matters further, historians have since concluded, was that Ireland continued to export large quantities of food, primarily to Great Britain, during the blight.In 1847 alone, records indicate that commodities such as peas, beans, rabbits, fish and honey continued to be exported from Ireland, even as the Great Hunger ravaged the countryside.The exact role of the British government in the Potato Famine and its aftermath—whether it ignored the plight of Ireland’s poor out of malice, or if their collective inaction and inadequate response could be attributed to incompetence—is still being debated.In addition, Glasgow Celtic FC, a soccer team based in Scotland that was founded by Irish immigrants, many of whom were brought to the country as a result of the effects of the Potato Famine, has included a commemorative patch on its uniform—most recently on September 30, 2017—to honor the victims of the Great Hunger.A Great Hunger Museum has been established at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut as a resource for those seeking information on the Potato Famine and its impact, as well as for researchers hoping to explore the event and its aftermath. .
The Irish Potato Famine And The ...
The "Irish" potato actually originated in the Andes of South America where Native people have been cultivating it for at least 4,000 years, eventually developing about 3,000 varieties by the time of the Spanish invasion.The Spanish then introduced it to Europe, where it was grown as a garden novelty but met resistance as a food crop, possibly because it's classified in the same family as the poisonous nightshade, because the Europeans considered it ugly, it's not mentioned in the Bible, and apparently it gave some people excessive gas.Eventually it made it's way to Ireland, possibly in 1588 on destroyed ships of the Spanish Armada found washed up on the coast by Irish peasants.For example, by 1845, less than a century after it was widely adopted as a food in Ireland, the country's population had tripled and during this time 1.75 million Irish emigrated to the Americas.In 1847, only sixteen years after having been "removed" from their homeland in the southeastern United States and experiencing starvation and other deprivations, a group of Choctaw raised $710 dollars and sent it to Ireland to aid in the famine relief efforts. .
Irish Return an Old Favor, Helping Native Americans Battling the
A high prevalence of diseases like diabetes, scarcity of running water and homes with several generations living under the same roof have enabled the virus to spread with exceptional speed in places like the Navajo Nation, according to epidemiologists.The famine was among the first humanitarian crises to be reported in the early days of global media, which helped spur donations to Ireland from around the world. .
What the Irish Ate Before Potatoes
Without the potato, there would be no colcannon, no Irish stew, no shepherd's pie, and certainly no McDonald's fries to dip in your Shamrock Shake at the shameful end of the night.The island's green pastures gave rise to a culture that was fiercely proud of its cows (one of the main genres of Ancient Irish epics is entirely about violent cattle rustling), and a cuisine that revolved around banbidh , or "white foods.".In 1690, one British visitor to Ireland noted that the natives ate and drank milk "above twenty several sorts of ways and what is strangest for the most part love it best when sourest.".They did eat meat, of course, though the reliance on milk meant that beef was a rarity, and most people probably just fried up some bacon during good times, or ate fish they caught themselves.It came at a time of intensifying violence, political oppression, and economic exploitation by the British, and it combined with enforced poverty to destroy the food culture of the island.So if you want to celebrate the true spirit of St. Paddy, who had never heard of the cursed potato in his sainted life, bust out the oat cakes, milk jugs, and giant vats of curds this Sunday.