Who brought the potato to Ireland

The potato - our most important staple food

The potato is one of the most important crops for human consumption worldwide.

The potato (lat. Solanum tuberosum L.) - besides tomatoes, paprika and tobacco a useful plant from the nightshade family (Solanaceae) - is superior to all other cultivated plants of mankind in the production of protein per unit of time and area. The potato protein contains essential amino acids that other plants do not produce and is therefore very valuable for human nutrition. Potatoes are grown on 20.3 million hectares worldwide and rank fourth among the most frequently cultivated crops after wheat, rice and maize with a world total annual yield of 300 million tons. In Switzerland, for example, potatoes are planted annually on an area of ​​16,000 hectares.

However, growing products on such a large scale also has its own risks. Late blight, for example, a disease caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans, is the dominant problem in potato cultivation in this country. In addition to the destruction of the potato tops and reduced tuber growth, considerable storage losses occur in the event of an infestation. Problematic copper spraying or repeated treatments with fungicides have been the only control methods that have only limited effectiveness.

Various organizations and institutes in Europe have been researching a genetically modified potato variety that is resistant to fungal attack since 1992. A variety with built-in fungus resistance would be interesting for farmers both economically and ecologically. In Switzerland alone, such a transgenic potato variety could save around 50 tonnes of fungicides per year.

The origin of the potato in the Andes

The potato has its origin in Latin America. There appear to be three botanical distribution centers: (a) the Andes from Peru and Bolivia to NW Argentina, (b) the highlands of Mexico and Guatemala, and (c) southern Chile. Archaeological studies have carried out wild potatoes as early as 13,000 BC. d. Detected in southern Chile, long before the introduction of arable farming. The cultivation of the potato as a crop originated from the Andean distribution center. The oldest finds of cultivated potatoes were made in the Chilca Valley (south of Lima, Peru). They are set to 7000 BC. dated. The potato came to Europe only after Pizarro had conquered the Inca Empire (1532). There were probably two independent introductions of the potato to Europe. The first came to Spain around 1570 and the second to England around 1590. While there are more than 200 botanical species of potatoes in South America, 7 of which are cultivated, in Europe only the species Solanum tuberosum is grown. The potato was already known in various German countries at the end of the 16th century. At that time, however, their distribution was mostly limited to their cultivation in herb and apothecary gardens. It was only after the Thirty Years 'War and especially during the Seven Years' War that potatoes were increasingly grown as a useful crop. At the end of the 16th century, potatoes were cultivated in fields in Austria. Around 1700 there was potato cultivation in southern Germany, in the Vogtland and in the Ore Mountains. In northern Germany, the potato only became important in the middle of the 18th century. An abundance of regional varieties soon developed. However, many of these varieties died out under the devastating effects of the Phytophthora epidemic of 1845–1848.

History of the spread to Europe and Germany

New knowledge about the potato from Flensburg
We learned that it was Prussian King Friedrich II, the old Fritz, who introduced potato cultivation in Germany in 1745. Not correct! Max Wirsing, who lives in Flensburg, did some research and found out that almost 100 years earlier, namely in 1647, potatoes from South America were being cultivated in fields. The Prussian King (see also www.koenigreich-preussen.de) only took over this later.
Max Wirsing, by the way, he is a holder of the Federal Cross of Merit, was before he retired, head of department in the Federal Motor Transport Authority. Through his work, the history of the potato in Germany must now be rewritten.

So the potato got into the field

The first field-based potato cultivation was carried out in 1647 by farmers from Pilgramsreuth. Hans Rogler, farmer in Pilgramsreuth, received the first seed potatoes from a Dutch soldier during the Thirty Years' War. And the success of the harvest was not long in coming: soon more than 500 quintals of potatoes were being harvested in the 400-inhabitant village of Pilgramsreuth. The Church, however, was against the potato. The earth fruit came from the South American pagans. And the tubers grew in the dark.

The potato cultivation, which the Franconian farmers practiced, was so successful that other duchies and Prussia were soon supplied. In 1745, the King of Prussia finally passed the law on the cultivation of potatoes in Prussia as well. The farmers were prescribed that they had to plant 10 percent of their acreage with potatoes. The reason: In contrast to grain, the potato was and is not dependent on the weather, neither at the time of sowing nor before harvest. It was only with the cultivation of potatoes that the famine could be contained in Europe.


Potato - Tartüffeln - Erdapfel - Erdpirne - Frundbirne - Dutch eggs - Erdtoffeln - Erdtuffeln - Potaken - Slippers - Bulwen - Grumberry - Ground pear - Kautüffel - Ketüffel


The herbaceous, 40 - 120 cm high, plant has an upright, knotty stem. On it are the pinnate leaves, with small and large leaflets alternating. The white or purple flowers are coiled, five-lobed and have a wheel-shaped corolla. Green berries roughly the size of a cherry develop as the fruit.
Flowering period: June - October, fruits: August - September


The plant, introduced by Chile in the 16th century, is cultivated worldwide.

Active ingredients:

Alkaloids are concentrated in the peel of the potato, including solanine, which form a natural defense barrier against bacteria and insects, for example. The main active ingredient is solanine. In the berries the content is around 1%, in the germs around 5%, in the flowers around 0.7%, in the seeds around 0.25% and in the herb around 0.5%. Not only the green potatoes are poisonous, but also the "eyes" and germs of the potato show a high solanine content due to exposure to light and too long or incorrect storage.

Toxic parts:

All parts of the plant above ground, especially green potatoes, berries and the seedlings of the tubers, are highly poisonous.


Fatal poisoning by the plant has often been described in the literature. The poisonous alkaloids are not inactivated during cooking, but rather pass into the cooking water. After a few hours of exposure, there is burning and scratching in the mouth, throat and throat area. Red, dry and hot skin, nausea, vomiting and severe and foul-smelling diarrhea occur. The vomited stomach contents are often bilious in color. The inflammation of the stomach and intestines caused in this way can last 24 hours. The solanine is also able to dissolve the red blood cells. In addition to impaired consciousness, there are headaches, sweats and flickering eyes with sometimes appearing optical illusions. Cramps are rarely seen in this intoxication. Death usually occurs when consciousness is fully preserved due to respiratory paralysis.

Potato tops and sprouted potatoes are poisonous for horses, cattle and cows, sheep, pigs, hares and rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and birds.


The first step is to give medicinal charcoal. Physostigmine salicylate can be given as a specific antidote. The dose is 0.5 mg in children and 2 mg i.m. in adults. or slowly i.v. This medication may only be carried out under monitor control. If the symptoms recur, this antidote can be injected again. The breathing disorders may need to be supported with the aids available. All further assistance depends on the symptoms of the poisoning.

Medicinal effect and medical application:

Potato juice has an antispasmodic effect and inhibits gastric acid production. The potato is no longer used medicinally these days. The higher their place in the diet is to be set. The potato contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E and K, as well as minerals and trace elements. However, the vitamin C is destroyed by too long cooking and the minerals washed out, so the loss of vitamins and minerals in boiled potatoes is 25%. Potatoes have also proven themselves as a dietary remedy for circulatory diseases and water retention.