Potato basics

Potato is a tuberous and starchy crop that belongs to the perennial nightshade plants’ family. The word potato itself can either refer to the edible tuber or the plant per se. The species is considered indigenous in the Andes region, where some other close related crops to potatoes are also actively cultivated. The first time that potatoes were grown outside of the Andes region was around 4 centuries ago and ever since then, potatoes have turned into an integral part of the food supply all over the world. They are the fourth largest food crop to be produced in the world, after maize, wheat and rice. Another interesting fact you should know about them is that the green skins and green leaves of the tubers become toxic when exposed to natural light.

One can find wild potato species all over the Americas, right from the United States of America, down to the southern areas of Chile. It is believed that potato was originally domesticated on an independent basis at multiple locations, but later on the genetic testing of its wild species and wide variety proved that a single potato origin can be found in the area located at the south of Peru and extreme north-west of Bolivia. Here, potatoes have been under cultivation for around 7000 to 10,000 years. Having been selectively bred for several centuries, there are around thousand different types of potatoes you can eat. As much as 99% of the potatoes that are cultivated throughout the world today are descendants of the varieties originating from south-central Chile low lands. All these have rapidly displaced the former popular potatoes of the Andes region.

Nevertheless, the importance of potato at the local level is variable in nature and has been changing rapidly. The crop remains a very important one in the European region, especially in the central and eastern parts of Europe, where the potatoes per capita production is by far the highest in the world. However, the most rapid expansion of potato as a crop has happened in the eastern and southern parts of Asia in the past few decades. Going by the 2007 statistics, China leads the potato production of the world and almost one third of the potatoes that are eaten world over are harvested in India and China combined.

To conclude, potatoes are one of the most loved food items world over. People like having them in all forms including roasted, baked and mashed. Their importance has grown so much over the past few centuries that they have slowly turned into a staple food in many parts of the world.