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Irish Potatoes Fresh from Soil in Uganda
The white or Irish potato (Solanum tuberosum), also called the "earth apple" (Fr. pomme de terre), needs no lengthy introduction.
In regions where climate is too cold for maize, natives have been able to grow potatoes; the archeological record of potato use dates back at least 13,000 years in Chile and 9000 years in Peru and Bolivia.
In Peru the tuber is freeze-dried in the night air and then trampled to make a starch staple, and this is added to stews with other tubers (oca, Oxalis tuberosa; melloco, Ullucus tuberosus). Potato is also used to make an alcoholic beverage called chicha.
White potato became an essential staple in the diets of common people throughout Europe. In Ireland, where the crop did extremely well, potato was the only staple food; e.g., male farm workers consumed 12-14 pounds of potatoes daily. In 1845, after three weeks of wet weather, the Irish potato crop began to die.
Solanum tuberosum is the fourth largest yielding crop plant in the world, behind wheat, rice, and maize, but compared with these three cereals, its production (nearly 225-285 million metric tons) occurs on 10% of the area. Potato trivia includes that this species is cultivated in 126 countries (1980 data), although Europe and the former Soviet Union contained 70% of the global potato area.
One area in Switzerland produces 42 tons per acre, and other high yields come from the Netherlands and Israel.
Five billion pounds of potatoes are made into fries every year!
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