The history of the potato is a much bigger part than most people realize. It is one of the most important crops in the world, with 368 million tonnes being produced. It is the fifth most important crop, after rice, wheat, sugarcane, and corn. Despite its importance, it is rarely given the attention it deserves. Other than a few jokes, anecdotal stories, and nursery rhymes, there's not much to the potato's popularity.
The Incan Indians of Peru are the first to mention potatoes being cultivated. They did so sometime between 8000 BC, 5000 BC, and the High Andes Mountains. Some believe that potatoes were first grown in the wild as early as 10,000 BC. We won't know the exact year because record-keeping was often neglected in favor of more important matters like food, shelter, and water. However, we can say that we have a long history of potatoes. The Incas were also the first to dehydrate potatoes. They preserved them by drying and then mashing them into a substance called chunu. The local community could store chunu for as long as ten years, giving them insurance in the event of a natural disaster.
The arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors in 1532 was the beginning of the end for the Peruvian potato. The Spanish discovered that Incan men were working as miners in the search for gold and began to eat chunu. They adopted chunu as part of their ship provisioning and took them back to Spain over the next 40-years. A few Spanish farmers raised potatoes for livestock feed. The potatoes were slowly introduced to Italy from Spain in the late 1500s, but there was a lot of contempt and suspicion for them everywhere in Europe because they came from a heathen society.
In the late 1600s and early 1800s, there were significant changes in the world that would have a profound impact on our lives. Sir Walter Raleigh, was an explorer, writer, courtier, and explorer who introduced potatoes to Ireland in 1589 from the 40,000 acres of land located near Cork. The tuber was introduced across the Atlantic to the American colonies by the British governor in the Bahamas who sent a gift package of Solanum Tuberosum to the governor of the colony. The potato was a staple in America, even though it didn't take off until the latter part of the 1700s. The potential of the potato was recognized by the European upper classes, which encouraged the growth of potatoes.
Luther Burbank, a botanist who discovered that the Early Rose potato produces a seed ball in 1872 was a breakthrough in potato cultivation. He was able to breed potatoes with larger yields that sometimes double or triple the parents. The resultant progeny was known as the Burbank potato. It is also commonly known as the "Idaho” potato.
Over the years, many improvements have been made to the potato industry, including improved storage facilities and better packing houses. These changes are integral to the United States' ability to produce a strong crop year after year. However, potato consumption began to decline in the United States around 1980. Some claim it was changing our eating habits, while others believe there was little excitement around potatoes. The industry needed a catalyst to make things better. Potandon Produce introduced Klondike Rose(r), a new variety of potato that was yellow-fleshed and red-skinned. It was regarded as one of the most important potato varieties of the past fifty years. When the potato's impact was felt by consumers, both growers and breeders realized the potential for real change. The introduction of new varieties with bold colors and unique shapes in smaller sizes changed the way people eat.