Origin and family of the potato

Did you know that the potato is related to the tomato, aubergine, red pepper and chilli pepper? This is because the potato plant is a member of the Solanaceae, the deadly nightshade family. The potato plant produces roots and runners underground. The tubers - or in other words the potatoes - grow on the end of the runners.

Origin of the potato

Our potato does not originate from the Netherlands, but from the Andes region in South America. It is believed that some 7000 years ago potatoes were already being grown in the Andes. For many centuries people have been growing a range of potato varieties on small mountain lots. The potato as we know it arrived in Spain in 1570, somewhere near the port of Seville. At the end of the 16th century it was the English who introduced the tasty tuber to northern and western Europe.

Despite lyrical descriptions of the potato, the Europeans did not immediately consider the new plant as a source of food. Until well into the 18th century the potato was used exclusively as an unusual garden plant.

The potato in the Netherlands

It is not known exactly how the potato reached the Netherlands. Around 1760 the Friesians were the first to embrace the potato. It proved a cheap and easy-to-grow crop. Other regions in the Netherlands didn't follow until later. In Germany, Scandinavia and the Slavic countries it also took quite a long time before the potato became a commonplace vegetable. It wasn't until the start of the 19th century that potatoes were on the menu of large sections of the European population.