People's Food (Mark Dowie: Resurgence 251)

URL http://www.resurgence.org/magazine/article2661-Peo...
Summary The common spud provides healthy and vital food security to millions of people around the world.

People's Food

The common spud provides healthy and vital food security to millions of people around the world.

No-one seems to know who found the first potato, or exactly where it was unearthed, but it seems certain to have been somewhere in southern Peru. Scientists recently analysed the DNA markers in 261 wild and 98 cultivated varieties and through them traced the potato to a single wild progenitor found in the Cuzco region of the Peruvian Andes. In all probability the original potato would have been a small russet-coloured object not much larger than a radish, turned up by a pre-Incan woman foraging for her family. She no doubt took a few of the curious tubers home and cooked some up for her family, and when a leftover began to sprout a green shoot, she planted it.

..............................................................................................

I left Peru with a new respect and affection for the common spud, which I now know to be a healthy and vital food source for millions of people around the world. I tasted potatoes and potato dishes there I had never imagined, and I witnessed the preservation of a complex agricultural technology as old as humankind. And I returned to my modern, hyper-technological society suspecting that food security for millions can be assured without chemistry, genetic engineering or enormous industrial farms. There is more than wisdom in the ancient traditions of the Andean potato farmer. There is security.

Mark Dowie is an investigative historian living in Point Reyes Station, California.