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History And Importance Of The Potato Among Many Cultures

2703 words - 11 pages

The Tuber that Unites a Hungry World
Potatoes are a truly globalized crop. They can be found all around the world from the Americas to China, from Africa to Europe. In each of these places, they play their own unique role but the secret to their success is their hardy nature and their nutritional value. They become valuable to some peoples because they are able to grow in geographical locations or in weather situations that would cause other crops to fail. They are also incredibly nutritious, providing all that is necessary for survival. They are, in fact so nutritious that they have throughout history been one of the chief supporters of human life—along with rice, maize, barley, and maniocs (Crosby,169)—and are today one of the four most imported food plants in the world (King). No other crop has the ability to yield such healthful food in such small space (Campbell Bartoletti, 20) It is because of these characteristics that potatoes have remained an influential commodity, spreading from culture to culture, supplying cheap nutrition for the poor, and leading to cultural interaction through both trade and catastrophe created migration.
The potato tuber is actually far more healthful than is commonly believed today. It is a very good source of carbohydrates (which contrary to the negative connotations they have received from diets like the Atkins are very important in a healthy diet), which makes up about 75% of its total dry matter (this hangs out there – what makes up about 75%???). Though they contain a relatively small amount of protein, the protein they do contain has a biological value of 90-100 conversely, beans have a protein value of 73 while eggs’ value is 100). They are also rich in many of the minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants necessary for a healthy diet. Lastly, potatoes contain far less lipids than rice or pasta and their peel is rich in dietary fibers that have been associated with low cholesterol. These tubers function as a quality staple food and are very helpful in avoiding malnutrition (Camire 825-832).
Potatoes originated in South America, where the early inhabitants of Peru became increasingly reliant on them. Due to their nutritional value, they became the main food source for the Peruvians—who most often ate potatoes in the form of Chuno, a sort of potato flour. The potato was one of the few crops that could grow successfully high up in the Andes and it is only because of their existence that people were able to habitat these mountains (Laufer, 22). It has also been speculated that the mountains were the path taken when people migrated to the coastal regions, and therefore the potato would be indirectly responsible for the spreading and inhabiting of such areas of the continent (Salaman, 11).
However, not until the Spanish arrived did they in any real way begin globalizing. (consider rewriting the previous sentence) Early on from their arrival, it was discovered that the old world (is the term “old World”...

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