Food historian Rebecca Earl says, “The potato is worldwide and all peoples consider it their own.” She considers it the ‘most successful expatriate’ in the world. The story of potato is not confined to any one country or geographical region. Its story tells how humans have changed their relationship with the land and food over the past few generations.
Potato is called the king of vegetables in India. This potato, which is available in the market throughout the year, has made its full inroads in Indian food, whether it is facem snack samosa, paratha or potato-cumin made in Bihar and Purvanchal. It is in great demand from North to South India. There would hardly be any household where this vegetable is not used, but do you know that it is not Indian?
There was no existence of this potato 500 years ago. It came to India for the first time during the 15th century. The credit for making Indians taste it goes to European and Dutch traders, who brought it to India and promoted it here.
It was not born in India, but near Lake Titicaca in the Andes mountain range of South America. The credit for promoting this vegetable in the country goes to Warren Hastings, who was the Governor General of India from 1772 to 1785. By the 18th century, potato had been fully propagated in India. At that time there were three varieties of it. The name of the first variety of potato was Phulwa, which grew in the plains. The second was named Gola, because it was round in shape and the third was named Saatha, because it sprouted after 60 days.
According to research by American scientists, it was used in central Peru about 7000 years ago. However, it is claimed that its cultivation started on the Caribbean Islands. Then it was called ‘Kamata’ and ‘Batata’. This potato reached Spain in the 16th century, through Spain it entered Europe, and after reaching Europe, the name of the potato was changed to ‘Patoto’. In Purgal-dominated areas of India like Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa, it is still called Batata. .
effect of potato in india
It is said that when European traders started selling it in Kolkata, its name changed and it came to be known as potato. Cultivation of this vegetable started in Nainital in India and gradually it became popular here. By the 19th century, potatoes were grown throughout Bengal and the hills of northern India.
In ‘Food on the Move: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery’, Colleen Taylor Sen talks about how the potato changed the face of Bengali cuisine.
The British believed that the success of potato in India would be fiercely contested by rice. But in fact the opposite happened and Indians readily accepted it and gradually incorporated potatoes in their recipes. After all, India’s heart is big enough to include everyone. Today we not only cook innumerable potato dishes, but are also the second largest potato producing country in the world after China.
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