Essay about History and Importance of the Potato Among Many Cultures

Essay about History and Importance of the Potato Among Many Cultures

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The Tuber that Unites a Hungry World
Potatoes are a truly globalized crop. They can be found all around the world from the Americas to China, from Africa to Europe. In each of these places, they play their own unique role but the secret to their success is their hardy nature and their nutritional value. They become valuable to some peoples because they are able to grow in geographical locations or in weather situations that would cause other crops to fail. They are also incredibly nutritious, providing all that is necessary for survival. They are, in fact so nutritious that they have throughout history been one of the chief supporters of human life—along with rice, maize, barley, and maniocs (Crosby,169)—and are today one of the four most imported food plants in the world (King). No other crop has the ability to yield such healthful food in such small space (Campbell Bartoletti, 20) It is because of these characteristics that potatoes have remained an influential commodity, spreading from culture to culture, supplying cheap nutrition for the poor, and leading to cultural interaction through both trade and catastrophe created migration.
The potato tuber is actually far more healthful than is commonly believed today. It is a very good source of carbohydrates (which contrary to the negative connotations they have received from diets like the Atkins are very important in a healthy diet), which makes up about 75% of its total dry matter (this hangs out there – what makes up about 75%???). Though they contain a relatively small amount of protein, the protein they do contain has a biological value of 90-100 conversely, beans have a protein value of 73 while eggs’ value is 100). They are also rich in many of the minerals, vitamins, a...

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..., Conquistadors, Marie Antoinette, Thomas Jefferson, Wars, Famines, Immigrants, and French Fries All P. New York: Harpercollins, 1992. Print.
O'Brien, Patricia J. . "The Sweet Potato: Its Origin and Dispersal." American Anthropologist 74.3 (1972): 342-365. JSTOR. Web. 14 May 2010.
"Potato world: Production and Consumption - International Year of the Potato 2008." United Nations International Year of the Potato 2008. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2010. Salaman, Redcliffe N.. The History and Social Influences of the Potato. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1949. Print.
Smil, Vaclav. "Energy Flows in Rural China ." Human Ecology 7.2 (1979): 119-133 . Print.
Workman, Daniel . "Top Ten Potato Countries." Suite101. N.p., 18 Oct. 2007. Web. 1 May 2010.

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