Cultural Diversity – The Potato

September 8, 2010 at 4:01 am | Posted in Cultural Diversity | Leave a comment
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Where Does the Potato Originate From?

This is a continuation of my last blog on cultural diversity in the classroom.


When students are asked where the potato originates from, they usually guess Ireland or closer yet, Idaho. We get this wonderful tuber from the Incas in Southern Peru, Northern Bolivia. In the 16th century, the Spanish Conquistadores visited Peru where they found the potato. They saw it was very portable, so they took it with them when they left. What they failed to bring with them was the method used by the Incas to freeze dry the potato for long term storage. The Incas would place the potato out on the rocks where it would be exposed to the cold and dehydrate (freeze dried). At this state it was called Chuño. The Incas could store this freeze dried potato for 10 years.

Europeans used the potato mostly as fodder to feed their animals. In Ireland, where grain was difficult to grow, the potato became the staple. The use of potato provided more food for the Irish people, which meant longevity and increased population. Their numbers grew as they flourished with this new crop. When the potato blight hit (potatoes are prone to mold and rot with exposure to moisture), the Irish people were left without food between 1845 – 1852 and millions died or emigrated.

In the United States, it was Thomas Jefferson who cultivated small lots of potato on his plantation and it was said to have been his French cook who can be credited for the first French Fry.

So let’s give a BIG  hand to the Incas for our gift of the potato!

Another wonderful contribution from a culture not our own!

Educators – see Diversity Workshop under my Pages category

Pleasure is spread through the earth
In stray gifts to be claimed by whoever shall find.
~William Wordsworth, 1806


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