Before potatoes arrived in Ireland, the island’s people depended on livestock and sea-based fishing to survive. These activities required large amounts of land and a lot of strength, both of which were quickly dwindling in the 18th century.
Potatoes offered a solution to these problems. They could be grown on a small scale, and were cheap. As such, they became the primary food crop for poor Irish peasants.
They were easy to grow
Despite the fact that potatoes weren’t introduced to Ireland until 1580, they became a staple crop in the country. The reason was that they were a reliable and highly nutritious food that didn’t require much space.
Before potato cultivation, the Irish relied on livestock and fish to survive. This was a tough way to live.
By the early 1800s, two-thirds of the population was dependent on potato production for their daily dietary needs. This was an extremely dangerous situation, as it led to the Irish potato famine of 1845-1847.
The main problem was that the potato was highly susceptible to a fungus called the potato blight. The disease overwinters in tubers that are left behind from the previous year’s harvest. This disease was so severe that it destroyed the entire potato crop and prompted the Irish to refer to their period of starvation as the Gorta Mor or Droch Shaol. This was one of the most harrowing periods in Irish history.
They were cheap
Before potatoes were introduced to Ireland, the Irish ate livestock and survived off fish from the North Atlantic. They needed vast amounts of land and resources to ranch and a great deal of strength and tenacity to fight the waves for fish.
The potato arrived in Ireland during the 18th century. It was an unpopular crop at first, but it quickly became a staple. It was cheap and highly nutritious.
As a rule, the dry matter content (starch) of potatoes is very variable: weather, pests, soil and agricultural practices all play a part. However, modern nutritional analysis concedes that the potato is good food and that the poor in pre-famine Ireland did eat it in abundance.
When the potato blight hit, it was very difficult to grow other crops on the ruined fields. They continued to plant wheat and oats for export, but the people who grew these were often starving by the time they harvested the potatoes in October.
They were nutritious
The potato is a member of the nightshade family, but unlike tomatoes or aubergines, it’s not a fruit. It’s a tuber, a part of the stem that’s underground and stores food for the plant’s leaves.
It can be planted in a variety of ways, depending on the needs of the region and climate. The potatoes are a good crop to grow in poor soil and on mountain sides, as they can grow well even when wet.
They provide our bodies with important nutrients, such as Vitamin B6, iron and fiber. They can also reduce inflammation, which is good for the heart and the digestive system.
However, they can cause weight gain and diabetes if they are fried or eaten in large amounts. That’s why if you’re on a diet, it’s best to limit your intake of potatoes.
Fortunately, the potato has come a long way since it first arrived in Ireland. Today, it’s a popular food and a staple in many countries around the world.
They were easy to transport
One of the main reasons that potatoes dominated the food and agriculture space was their portability. They were a breeze to transport on the high seas and did not require any significant land mass to get from the fields to the dinner table. They also lasted a long time and were easy to store in a refrigerator.
The problem was that in order to keep the potato fresh, farmers needed to be sure to plant it in good ole’ fashion, which meant the usual suspects: slaves and serfs. The result was a crop of the unhappiest kind. The resulting shortage left many poorer nations in the dark and led to the famous Great Irish Famine of 1845. The crop was a boon for the farmers and their families but it was a curse for the millions of people who fell through the cracks.
The best place to start is by looking at what the occupants of these villages are eating and how much they can afford to spend on food. For the lucky few, a small change in the right direction could make all the difference and turn their lives around.