A.A. Milne as soon as mentioned, “If a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”
Described as the poor man’s staple, the humble potato has fueled the rise and fall of civilizations and was integral to Eagle County’s early improvement. The potato plant’s distinctive construction permits it to thrive in harsh environments the place different crops battle to take root.
The birthplace of the trendy potato was amongst towering peaks, 22,000 ft excessive in the Andean mountains. Around 8,000 years in the past, the Incan folks invented an ingenious solution to cultivate the wild potato, which contained toxic compounds referred to as solanine and tomatine.
These toxins have been thought to guard the potato from pests however posed a problem for human consumption. The Incan folks noticed that ingesting a small quantity of clay together with the potatoes neutralized the poison. Over time, wild potatoes have been selectively bred to be much less poisonous. However, toxic varieties, valued for his or her means to resist chilly, are nonetheless bought in Peruvian marketplaces immediately (together with a little bit of clay, in fact).
To perceive the potato’s success, one must get to the root of how potatoes thrive in mountainous environments. As potato vegetation develop, their leaves photosynthesize sugars that are transformed into starch. The starch molecules are transported underground to be safely saved in nutrient-packed tubers.
Plants that develop vertically are restricted in measurement by the energy of their stems, however potatoes have gravity on their aspect. By rising underground, they will develop into fairly heavy with out placing an excessive amount of weight on a fragile stem. The heaviest potato on document weighed a whopping 11 kilos.
In favorable circumstances, tubers can sprout fully new vegetation and when harvested they supply farmers with a scrumptious, starch-packed crop. Potatoes are surprisingly excessive in sure nutritional vitamins and vitamins together with vitamin C, calcium, fiber, and protein. They will also be saved for lengthy durations of time throughout lengthy, chilly winters.
Although not really useful, you possibly can survive for a while off a eating regimen of solely potatoes. It isn’t any shock that their reputation shortly unfold throughout Europe, and from the Andean Mountains all the solution to the Rocky Mountains.
Potatoes have been grown broadly in Eagle County since the early 1900s. The crop thrived in the sandy soil of the Brush Creek and Gypsum Creek valleys the place younger tubers might simply push by way of the unfastened soil. Potatoes are productive even in the dry, excessive desert as a result of the vegetation produce extra meals per unit of water than some other main crop.
A journal entry from an Eagle Valley resident in 1904 describes seeing “1,000 acres in potatoes from the view we had up on that high mesa.” The potato was a staple crop, grown for each subsistence and sale.
Potatoes have many unbelievable advantages, however farming them does have a draw back. Potatoes reproduce by vegetative cloning, a course of the place new crops develop instantly from earlier generations of tubers. Large crops of genetically equivalent potatoes are prone to the similar illnesses and could be worn out by a single blight resulting in tragic occasions like the Irish Potato Famine.
Incan farmers appeared to grasp this menace and grew tons of of potato varieties at completely different elevations. Today there are over 4,000 styles of edible potato with the best range nonetheless in the Andean area. Honoring indigenous cultivation methods could be the solution to assure wholesome crops for years to come back. While having fun with this yr’s fall potato harvest, it’s value remembering that immediately’s favourite Thanksgiving aspect dish was as soon as a mountain city staple.
Rachel Dorencz is a Community Programs Coordinator at Walking Mountains Science Center. She’ll be spending Thanksgiving consuming hefty servings of mashed potatoes together with her pet rabbit,