Its history is difficult to trace, partly because the name
The potato is today a primary food of Western peoples, as well as a source of starch, flour, alcohol, dextrin, and fodder (chiefly in Europe, where more is used for this purpose than for human consumption). Nutritionally, the potato is high in carbohydrates and a good source of protein, vitamin C, the B vitamins, potassium, phosphorus, and iron. Most of the minerals and protein are concentrated in a thin layer beneath the skin, and the skin itself is a source of food fiber; health authorities therefore recommend cooking and eating potatoes unpeeled.
The potato grows best in a cool, moist climate; in the United States mostly in Maine and Idaho. Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, and Belarus are the greatest potato-producing countries of Europe, and China and India are now (with Russia) among the top three potato growers. Potatoes are usually propagated by planting pieces of the tubers that bear two or three “eyes,” the buds of the underground stems. The plant is sensitive to frost, is subject to certain fungus and virus diseases (e.g., mosaic, wilt, and blight), and is attacked by several insect pests, especially the potato beetle. Potatoes are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Solanales, family Solanaceae.
See studies by L. Zuckerman (1998) and J. Reader (2009).
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