There are some dishes we are so accustomed to that we might think they’ve been around forever!
Lemon roasted chicken is a dish that goes as far back as Ancient Greece!
But! Neither lemons nor potatoes were known to the Ancient Greeks. Lemons made their way to Greece in the 10th century and potatoes reached Europe in the 1500’s.
The story of the potato is much better known.
They originated in the Andes, between what today is known as Peru and Bolivia. They have been cultivated for thousands of years from the locals, who also didn’t have any lemons to make lemon roasted chicken! ;)
Potatoes made their way to Europe along with the Spanish explorers. It took a while for them to become wide spread throughout the continent since many people thought that potatoes were poisonous… This was in part true, since the first varieties that were cultivated were poisonous and needed to undergo a special procedure in order to be consumed safely.
One of the first countries that first cultivated potatoes in Europe was Spain. Slowly they were spread to France and Italy but still they were mostly produced to feed animals.
Their production was a slow and difficult process and their wider consumption was assisted by the noblemen in each country. They went to great lengths to do this. Just imagine that the French emperor, Ludwig XVI wore potato flowers as a boutonniere and Mary Antoinette wore them in her hair in order to inspire people. Frederick III, the emperor of Prussia was said to have had a potato field that was guarded by soldiers. This made the peasants want to have some also, so they started sneaking in to steal them in order to start cultivating their own.
It is a fact that the cultivation of potatoes wiped out the plagues in Europe and helped develop the continent!
It was also the first monoculture (the cultivation of a single crop in a given area) that began in the world and was the start of modern agriculture.
Of course the danger for each monoculture is the rapid spread of disease. This happened around 1840 where all of the potato crops across Europe were wiped out by one such disease. 1 million people died in Ireland and another million migrated to America and Canada.
So the potato, which is the fifth largest agriculture in the world after wheat, rice, corn and sugarcane, has completely transformed the world!
Even today, there are over 1.000 varieties of potatoes in Latin America. They come in all sorts of strange shapes and colors. This has brought taxonomists to tears of despair because they don’t know how to organize or categorize each variety, since each variety in one type of soil and in a certain altitude doesn’t look anything like the same variety that is 20 km away! It’s crazy!
Let’s take a look at some recipes made with the almighty and beloved potato…
If you want more information about the potato and how it changed the world, read this great article!!