The Past and Present of the Potato

At the time of my childhood, Blue Eyes was popular. My husband, whose parents spent every summer at the Country House, remembered Aurora, Elizaveta, Zhukovskaya, and Nevskaya. Now in expensive restaurants you can taste purple mashed potatoes. That, in fact, is where our knowledge ends. And how many varieties of potatoes do you know?

potato varietiesPictured here are several varieties from Peru. There are more than 5 thousand of them in the world, and about 3 thousand of them are found only in the Andes – in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and Colombia.

There are two main varietal groups of potatoes, the Andean and the Chilean. Andean varieties are adapted to the short daylight typical of mountainous areas in the equator and tropical zones, from where they originated. For the Chilean potato, the Chilean archipelago is home – this group is adapted to the long daylight hours at the higher latitude of southern Chile. Over 99% of the varieties that exist today are derived from the lowland of south-central Chile – replacing the previously more popular varieties of the Andean group.

Previously, it was thought that potato cultivation began in parallel in numerous locations independent of each other. Later, genetic research on a large number of varieties, cultivars and wild species proved that the modern potato was native to southern Peru and the northwestern border area of Bolivia. The vegetable was cultivated there about 7-10 thousand years ago.