Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/215

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201
POTATO


Ine chief value of the potato as an article of diet consists in the starch it contains, and to a less extent in the potash and other salts. The quantity of nitrogen in its composition is small, and hence it should not be relied on to constitute the staple article of diet. Letheby gives the following as the average composition of the potato-

Nitrogenous matters . 2-I Saline matter . 0-7 Starch, &c. 18~8 Water . . 75-0 Sugar ..... 3~2 - -~-Fat

o-2 IO0'0

-a result which approximates closely to the average of nineteen analyses cited in How Crops Grow from Grouven. In some analyses, however, the starch is put as low as 13-30, and the nitrogenous matter as o-92 (Dehérain, Cours de ehirnie agricola, p. 159). Boussingault gives 252% of starch and 3% of nitrogenous matter. W arington states that the proportion of nitrogenous to non-nitrogenous matter in the digestible part of potatoes is as 1 to 1o~6. The composition of the tubers evidently varies according to season, soils, manuring, the variety grown, &c., but the ngures cited will give a sufnciently accurate idea of it. The “ash ” contains on the average of thirty-one analyses as much as 59-8% of potash, and 19~1 % of phosphoric acid, the other ingredients being in very minute proportion. Where, as in some parts of northern Germany, the potato is grown for the purpose of manufacturing spirit great attention is necessarily paid to the quantitative analysis of the starchy and saccharine matters, which are found to vary much in particular varieties, irrespective of the conditions under which they are grown. f

It is to the Spaniards that we owe this valuable esculent. The Spaniards met with it in the neighbourhood of Quito, where it was cultivated by the natives. In the Cronica de Pern of Pedro Cieca (Seville, 1553), as well as in other Spanish books of about the same date, the potato is mentioned under the name ii battata ” or “ papa.” Hieronymus Cardan, a monk, is supposed to have been the first to introduce it from Peru into Spainffrom which country it passed into Italy and thence into Belgium. Carl Sprengel, cited by Professor Edward Morren in his biographical sketch entitled Charles de l'Escluse, so vie el ses admires, states that the potato was introduced from Santa Fé into England by John Hawkins in 1563 (Garlen Zeilung, 1805, p. 346). If this be so, it is a question whether the English and not the Spaniards are not entitled to the credit of the first introduction; but, according to Sir Joseph Banks, the plant brought by Drake and Hawkins was not the common English potato but the sweet potato.

In 1587 or 1588 De l'Escluse (Clusius) received the plant from Philippe de Sivry, lord of Waldheim and governor of Mons, who in his turn received it from some member of the suite of the papal legate. At the discovery of America, we are told by Humboldt, the plant was cultivated in all the temperate parts of the continent from Chile to Colombia, but not in Mexico. In 1585 or 1586, potato tubers were brought from what is now North Carolina to Ireland on the return of the colonists sent out by Sir Walter Raleigh, and were first cultivated on Sir Walter's estate near Cork. The tubers introduced under the auspices of Raleigh were thus imported a few ye'axs'later than those mentioned by Clusius in 1588, which must have been in cultivation in Italy and Spainfor some years prior to that time. The earliest representation of the plant is to be found in Gera1d's Herbal, published in 1597. The plant is mentioned under the name Papus orbiculalus in the first edition of the Catalogns of the same author, published in 1596, and again in the second edition, which was dedicated to Sir Walter Raleigh (1599). It is, however, in the Herbal that we find the first description of the potato, accompanied by a woodcut sufficiently correct to leave no doubt whatever as to the identity of the plant. In this work (p. 781) it is called “ Battata virginiana sive Virginianorum, et Pappus, Potatoes of Virginia.” 1 The “common potatoes” of which Gerard speaks are the tubers of Ipomoea Balatas, the sweet potato, which nowadays would not in Great Britain be spoken of as common. A second }

I

I

i

edition of the Herbal was published in 1636 by Thomas Johnson, with a different illustration from that given in the first edition, and one which in some respects, as in showing the true nature of the tuber, is superior to the first. The phenomenon of growing out or “ super-tube ration ” is shown in this cut. Previous to this (in 1629) Parkinson, the friend and associate of Johnson, had published his Paradisus, in which (p. 517) he gives an indifferent figure of the potato under the name of Papas sen Ballalas Virginianormn, and adds details as to the method of cooking the tubers which seem to indicate that they were still luxuries. Chabraeus, who wrote in 1666, tells us that the Peruvians made bread from the tubers, which they called “ chunno." He further tells us that by the natives Virginieae insulae the plant was called “ openauk, ” and that it is now known in European gardens, but he makes no mention of its use as an esculent vegetable, and, indeed, includes it among “ plantae malignae et venenatae.” Heriot (De Bry's Collection of Voyages), in his report on Virginia, describes a plant under the same name “ with roots as large as a walnut and others much larger; they grow in damp soil, many hanging together as if fixed on ropes; they are good food either boiled or roasted.” The plant (which is not a native of Virginia) was probably introduced there in consequence of the intercourse of the early settlers with the Spaniards. The cultivation of the potato in England made but little progress, even though it was strongly urged by the Royal Society in 166 3; and not much more than a century has elapsed since its cultivation on a large scale became general.

Botanists are agreed that the only species in general cultivation in Great Britain is the one which Bauhin, in his Phytopinax, p. 89 (1596), called Solannrn tuberosurn esculenlurn, a name adopted by Linnaeus (omitting the last epithet), and employed by all botanical writers. This species is probably native in Chile, but it is very doubtful if it is truly wild farther north. Baker (Journ. Linn. Soc., 1884, xx. 489), has reviewed the tuber-bearing species of Solanum from a systematic point of View as well as from that of geographical distribution. Out of twenty so-called species he considers six to be really distinct, while the others are merely synonymous or triiiing variations. The six admitted tuber-bearing species are S. tuberosurn, S. Maglia, S. Comvnersoni, S. cardiophyllurn, S. Jarnesii and S. oxycarpurn.

S. tnberosurn is, according to l/lr Baker, a native not only of the Andes of Chile but also of those of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia, also of the mountains of Costa Rica, Mexico and the south-western United States. It seems most probable, however, that some at least of the plants mentioned in the northern part of America are the descendants of cultivated forms. S. Maglia is a native of the Chilean coast as far sou th as the Chonos Archipelago, and was cultivated in the garden of the Horticultural Society at Chiswick in 1822, being considered

by Sabine, in his paper

on the native country of the

wild potato, to be the true

S. tuberosurn and the origin of

the cultivated forms. This

species was also found by

Darwin in Chile, and was considered by him, as by Sabine

before him, to be the wild

potato. Baker refers to the

plants figured by Sabine (Trans.

Hart. Soc. Lond. v. 249)

(fig. I) as being without doubt

S. Maglia, but A. de Candolle

(Origins des Plantes cultivées,

p. 40) is equally emphatic in

the opinion that it is S. tuberosarn. S. Comrnersoni occurs in

Uruguay, Buenos Aires and the

Argentine Republic, in rocky

situations at a low level. Under

the name of S. Ohrondii it has

been introduced into western

France, where it is not only

hardy but produces abundance

of tubers, which are palatable,

eve

1 *tr

éié

M?

Qi/

iv , ,

rgg; 94

,

§ .' '

Zu ., ') i § .

  1. V sf.'f'.;:*" 2~ " '3 I "We

}Z, “gal:;%

 !'n' ' & MN

gtg, /, nf

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rl

(From Sabine's figure in the Trans. Horl. Soc. Lond., 1824, vol. v. pl. ii. See text.)

FIG. I.-Wild Potato-plant in

bloom. (i nat. size.)

S. cardiophyllurn, described by

but have a slightly acid taste.

Lindley in the Journ. Horl. Soc. is a native of the mountains of central Mexico at elevations of 8000 to 9000 ft. S. Jarnesi-i is a well-defined species occurring in the mountains of Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, and also in Mexico. In a wild state the tubers are not larger than marbles. S. oxycarpurn is a