Versatile potato has great potential
Today on the Scotsman.com, I read an interesting article about potatoes. Reporter Terry Wade writes from Lima, Peru, about a new-found respect for the potato's potential:
Potatoes, which are native to Peru, can be grown at almost any elevation or climate: from the barren, frigid slopes of the Andes to the tropical flatlands of Asia. They require very little water, mature in as little as 50 days and can yield between two and four times more food per hectare than wheat or rice.
"The shocks to the food supply are very real and that means we could potentially be moving into a reality where there is not enough food to feed the world," said Pamela Anderson, director of the International Potato Centre in Lima, a non-profit scientific group.
Like others, she says the potato is part of the solution to the hunger caused by higher food prices, a population that is growing by one billion people each decade, climbing costs for fertiliser and diesel, and more cropland being sown for biofuel production.
Source: "How potatoes could save the world" by Terry Wade, at news.scotsman.com
I've often had volunteer potatoes pop up in the garden from potato peelings or from small potatoes that I missed when digging up a crop. The potato's ability to survive and thrive has made me wonder what it is like where potatoes grew wild. In the countryside of Peru, are there places where the wild potatoes grew together so thickly that they choke out other plants?
I grew my best-ever crop of potatoes the year that my Mennonite neighbor brought me a load of straw bedding from his barn. It had a lot of manure mixed with it. I used it to mulch my little potato patch. Truly, it was a very small patch, but I harvested three 5-gallon buckets of nice potatoes.
When we lived in Bolivia, we ate some different sorts of potatoes. One type that I remember particularly was in the soups that we ate in La Paz. It was called chuño. To make chuño, the potatoes were spread outside to freeze overnight. After they thawed the next day, the juice was squished out of them (by walking on them}, and they were left in the sun to dry. This process was repeated every day for a couple of weeks, until the potatoes were completely dehydrated.
I could ramble on and on about potatoes. I could tell a few stories about my Grandpa Sees's potato farm at Gordon, Nebraska. I could even give some potato recipes.
2008 is the International Year of the Potato, so that gives me a good excuse to revisit this topic another day.