Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My New Baby Potatoes and the Ancient Incas

This week we are talking about some historical events that affect the plants we grow in our gardens today. So it might feel like a bit of a time warp for the next few posts. But I think you'll be interested in a bit of historic facts and how they affect us today.

"Whooo Doggie", we dug some new baby potatoes this week and they were amazing. I think it is the compost we plant them in but those spuds always taste way better than the commercially grown ones. I wonder if the ancient Incas looked forward with anticipation to their first harvest as much as we do.

The potato in all of its hundreds of varieties originated in the Andes mountains and was bred and refined by the Incas. The ancestors of these peoples in the Peruvian Anes still grow them today.

So why did the Incas grow potatoes and why is that significant to us.

Most of the peoples of the Americas grew corn or maize and it was widespread and genetically improved by these early Americans.

Corn won't grow at the altitudes in the Andes Mountains where the Incas lived.

In order to develop a significant culture, large cities, and a wide spread empire they needed a significant food source. They learned to terrace the mountains and grow many types of potatoes, which were well adapted to their high altitude, cool weather and short season.

Potatoes were imported into Europe in the late 1500's and did well there too.

Hmmm..cool weather....short season...does that sound familiar. Well potatoes grow well in SE Minnesota and we have the Incas and their progressive potatoes to thank for our bounty.

History is where you find it. Always good to learn about those early "Vegetable Freaks".

The Incas didn't have a written language so most of this is pieced together through excavation of the Inca ruins.

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