The Potato

by Charles McGrath


I'm always amazed how things seem to go around in a circle. Remember the old saying " what goes around comes around "?

The potato as you probably know was not indigenous to the Ireland. It was introduced into Ireland around 1600 . It came from the new world and was introduced by the Spanish Conquistadors. The Incas cultivated the potato in Peru almost 4,500 years ago. In the 1800's the potato was a very important source of food in Ireland. The average adult at that time would consume around five pounds a day.

The potato was reintroduced into the America's by the Europeans in the 1700's. They also did the same thing with turkeys (along with turning them white). As a young boy we were fed our share of potatoes. We had them at every meal. Mashed, baked, boiled , fried and in salads. The more I think about it, the more I realize that it was also an integral part of my diet.

How about the common saying "meat and potatoes". Meaning basics.

When the Potato Famine hit Ireland it had a tremendous detrimental impact. They foolishly allowed themselves to become dependent on a one crop food source. When it failed in the 1840's over one million Irish starved to death. People literally had to eat grass and weeds.

In the 1880's there was the Post Potato Famine. That's how I got here. Tenant farmers were thrown off the land by the landlords. As I discussed in the past Grandpa left Ireland in the 1880's. It was thought at the time that he "accelerated" the life of the evicting landlord.

I worked with many Irish farmers over the years. I always thought it was interesting that they affectionately refereed to potatoes as "tadies".

I was reading an interesting article in the New York Times a couple of years ago. After all these years the scientists finally discovered what caused the Potato Famine. Ireland started importing a cheap fertilizer in the 1840's form America. It was called guano which is the excrement of bats. This fertilizer was the vehicle for the fungus that caused the potato blight. Where did the guano come from in America? You guessed it! It came from Peru.

"What goes around comes around."


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