Many believe the potato was first grown in Europe, but it was actually in South America where this hearty vegetable was discovered. Originating from Peru and Chile, potatoes were regarded as an important crop by the natives. Now, potatoes are currently the most frequently produced crop in the entire world given the variety of foods that require their use.
The potato was planted in Italy purely for decoration, but was extensively harvested for food in Ireland as early as 1663 and in Scotland around 1740. Scotch Irish Pioneers were responsible for bringing the crop to North America, specifically Londonderry, New Hampshire, which they founded in 1719. However, they spent their first North American winter right here in Andover, one of the first places in America where the potato crop was planted.
One particular account of these Scotch Irish immigrants is provided by author Edward L. Parker in A History of Londonderry. Parker claims that the Scotch Irish planted potatoes before leaving Andover to settle in Londonderry.
Excerpt from A History of Londonderry:
“On taking their departure from one of the families with whom they had resided, they left a few potatoes for seed. The potatoes were accordingly planted; came up and flourished well; blossomed and produced balls, which the family supposed were the fruit to be eaten. They cooked the balls in various ways, but could not make them palatable, and pronounced them unfit for food. The next spring, while plowing their garden the plough passed through where the potatoes had grown, and turned out some of great size, by which means they discovered their mistake.”
Parker claims that these settlers accidentally harvested potato crops left behind by the Scotch Irish. While staying with a local family, some of the Scotch Irish began growing potatoes, but left Andover long before these crops could flourish. The Andover family unknowingly harvested the potatoes the following spring while tending to their own crops. What they were left with was a healthy, bountiful crop, which could be used to compliment a variety of meals.
How about that? Andover’s first encounter with the potato was an accidental discovery of the crop during the spring of 1719!
Get fresh local pototoes at the Andover Farmers’ Market located on the property of the Andover Historical Society every Saturday from 12:30-3:30 June 30-October 6.