A Taste of Potato History

Ireland's Great Famine in the mid-19th century led to the demise of farms, starvation, and many Irish emigrating to other countries. The most common potato affected was the Lumper, a popular potato at the time because it would grow in poor soil. It had all but disappeared until recently, when farmer Michael McKillop grew some heirloom seeds to resurrect the Lumper.

As its name implies, this potato is not especially beautiful. It’s large, knobby, and, well, lumpy, with pale brown skin and yellow flesh. Still, it was widely grown in Ireland before the famine because it did well in poor soil and could feed a lot of mouths.

According to University College Dublin’s Cormac O’Grada, an expert on the history of famines, the blight (Phytophtora infestans) destroyed about one-third of Ireland’s potato crop in 1845 and almost all of it in 1846. Because so many people were poor and relied on potatoes for sustenance, the blight had catastrophic consequences, including food riots and mass death from starvation.

Spuds are faring much better today thanks to modern farming techniques and technology, although potato blight is still an ongoing concern for Irish farmers.

Killop wants to bring back the Lumper for historic purposes, not to produce on a large scale. They don't taste as good as more modern potatoes. Irish potato farmers today generally grow newer varieties of potatoes for better quality and disease resistance. The news article includes a recipe for potato gratin, calling for russet potatoes. Link

We dish up more neat food posts at the Neatolicious blog

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