The potato is a tuber that originated in South America. Today, it is the fourth most important food crop in the world. China is the largest potato producer in the world. The potato became a global food in the 1500’s with Spain’s colonization of South America.
Photo: Different varieties of potatoes (Creative Commons: Susy Morris).
Botany of the Potato
Potatoes are herbaceous plants. There are over 5,000 potato varieties in the world. Flowers of the plant come in different colors. Flowers are cross-pollinated by bees which results in small green colored fruit. Potatoes may be grown from seeds in the fruit or from the tubers of the plant.
A tuber is an underground stem. The tuber has buds which can grow into a new plant. A tuber is used for storing energy and nutrients for future plant growth.
The potato’s scientific name is Solanum tuberosum. It belongs to the Solanaceae family and is related to tomatoes and eggplants.
The potato was first domesticated in Peru. Scientists believe that it was domesticated between 8000 BC and 5000 BC. Peru was colonized by the Spanish in the 1500’s. The Spanish brought the tuber back to Europe. From there, it then spread throughout the world.
The potato has become a staple food crop in many countries. It is an important part of the diet in many countries from Europe to Asia. As an international food, there are many ways that the tuber is now prepared for food
Potato and Humans
The top three producers of the tuber are China, India and Russia. It remains an important source of food from Europe to China. The potato is a cool season crop. In tropical climates, potatoes are grown in the cooler high elevations.
Potatoes are a good source of carbohydrates for the human diet. They can be baked, fried, boiled, steamed or grilled. Popular international versions of this plant are French fries and potato chips.
Improving Your Reading and Thinking Skills
Think for a few moments. Try to recall the major ideas in this article. When you are done, click the box below for a list of main ideas.
How did you do? With practice, you should be able to identify many of the major ideas. You may even discover some important ideas that aren’t listed.
Potatoes, Old Farmer’s Almanac.