Potato Grower

January 2018

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WWW.POTATOGROWER.COM 33 A fter the potato's introduction in Europe, several different religious groups, including Anabaptists, played a major role in the dissemination and cultivation of the potato. Those who were persecuted because of their faith especially learned to rely on the potato in their time of need. This in turn led to the potato often being considered "the bread for the poor." MONASTERIES, BOTANICAL GARDENS AND HERBALS The first record of the potato being grown on the European continent is from 1573, when potatoes were noted on a list of purchases made by a Carmelite hospital in Sevilla, Spain. In 1578, while exiled by her religious opponents to the Carmelite monastery in Toledo, Spain, Teresa of Avila received a food package from the monastery in Sevilla that included potatoes. In 1584, the same Carmelite order founded a monastery in Genova, Italy; they probably brought potatoes with them. For a couple centuries, the potato was confined to monasteries and botanical gardens in Europe and to descriptions in several herbals, books containing explanations of various plants' medicinal values. There were several reasons for the reluctance to grow or eat potatoes. First among them is that it was not mentioned in the Bible and was therefore not believed to be a food designed by God for human consumption. The central figure in the botanical world of the day was Carolus Clusius (1526-1609), who established an imperial botanical garden in Vienna. In 1588, Clusius received two tubers from the Papal Legate in Belgium, who called them by the Italian name of taratouffli. WALDENSIANS It has been suggested that it was the Waldensian farmers in the mountainous area of the Piedmont in northern Italy who were the source of the tubers that eventually reached Clusius in Vienna. Because of religious persecution, the Waldensians often withdrew to relatively inaccessible areas, where they became very skilled farmers. Waldensian leader Henry Arnaud (1641- 1721) led his fellow believers from Italy to southern Germany. Arnaud grew potatoes in his parish garden of Schönenberg and distributed them throughout the Waldensian colony there. EDICT OF NANTES REVOCATION In France, progressive Protestant farmers were protected by the Edict of Nantes issued in 1598. However, under the slogan "one king, one law, one faith," the Edict was revoked in 1685. The subsequent persecution of religious minorities resulted in mass emigration of some of the best French farmers, who left with their agricultural know-how, including potato cultivation. The more tolerant countries to which these Protestant farmers moved (primarily in northern Europe) benefited at the expense of France. QUAKER AND PRESBYTERIAN IMMIGRANTS IN NORTH AMERICA In 1685, when William Penn described Pennsylvania to potential immigrants, he included Irish potatoes in a list of crops that did well there. In 1719, a group of Scottish Presbyterian immigrants from Northern Ireland settled in Londonderry, N.H.; among the goods they brought with them was the potato. MORMON PIONEERS After its founding in 1830, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints was persecuted in the U.S. Under the leadership of Brigham Young, they moved west to the Salt Lake Valley, where they immediately established farms. Young's history states that on July 24, 1847, "at about noon, the five-acre potato patch was plowed when the brethren commenced planting their seed potatoes." A search for more land led them to Idaho. By 1875, the Mormons were shipping potatoes to California—a San Francisco newspaper called them "Brigham's potatoes." CLERGY CONTRIBUTIONS During the Irish potato famine in the 1840s, Miles Joseph Berkeley, a priest and deacon in the Church of England, actively participated in a debate about the cause of late blight. At the time, it was thought that diseases were caused by spontaneous generation rather than by micro-organisms. In his 1846 publication, Berkeley described how he had observed the fungus microscopically on potato leaves; it was revolutionary thinking to suggest this might be the cause of the disease.

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