When potato plants bloom, they send up five lobed flowers that spangle fields like fat purple stars. Marie Antoinette liked the blossoms so much that she put them in her hair. Her husband, Louis XVI, put one in his buttonhole, inspiring a brief vogue in which the French aristocracy swanned around with potato plants on their clothes. Flowers were part of an attempt to persuade French farmers to plant and French diners to eat this strange new species.
Today the potato is the fifth most important crop in the world, after wheat, rice, corn and sugar cane. But in the 18th century the tuber was a startling novelty, scary to some, bewildering to others part of a global ecological convulsion set off by Christopher Columbus.
About 250 million years ago, the world consisted of a single giant landmass now known as Pangaea. Geological forces broke Pangaea apart, creating the continents and hemispheres familiar today. The separate corners of the earth developed different suites of plants and animals. Columbus’ voyages reknit the seams of Pangaea, to borrow a phrase from Alfred W. Crosby, the historian who first described this process. In what Crosby called the Columbian Exchange, the world’s long separate eco systems abruptly collided and mixed in a biological bedlam that underlies much of the history we learn in school. The potato flower in Louis XVI’s buttonhole, a species that had crossed the Atlantic from Peru, was both an emblem of the Columbian Exchange and one of its most important aspects.
Many researchers believe that the potato’s arrival in northern Europe spelled an end to famine there. Corn, another American crop, played a similar but smaller role in southern Europe. More than that, as the historian William H. McNeill has argued, the potato led to empire, “By feeding rapidly growing populations, permitted a handful of European nations to assert dominion over most of the world between 1750 and 1950.” The potato, in other words, fueled the rise of the West.
Just as important, the European and North American adoption of the potato set the template for modern agriculture the so called agro industrial complex. Not only did the Columbian Exchange carry the potato across the Atlantic, it also brought the world’s first intensive fertilizer, Peruvian guano. And when potatoes fell to the attack of another import, the Colorado potato beetle, panicked farmers turned to the first artificial pesticide, a form of arsenic. Competition to produce ever more potent arsenic blends launched the modern pesticide industry. In the 1940s and 1950s, improved crops, high intensity fertilizers and chemical pesticides created the Green Revolution, the explosion of agricultural productivity that transformed farms from Illinois to Indonesia and set off a political argument about the food supply that grows more intense by the day.
Research Source: Smithsonian Mag Online
These crusty potatoes are boiled in salted and seasoned water. The potatoes absorb flavor and salt, but the potato surface cooks, which forms the awesome crunchy texture in the oven. Potatoes are crunchy and creamy inside.
Crusty Roasted Potatoes
Copyrighted 2013, Christine’s Pantry. All rights reserved.
3 large potatoes
1 tablespoon dried rosemary, see note below
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons garlic salt
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper, to taste
In a large pot, add potatoes and cover with water. Season the water with rosemary, bay leaves and garlic salt. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Set your timer. Drain well and return to pot. Drizzle olive oil, sprinkle salt and black pepper, toss to coat potatoes. Transfer potatoes to sheet pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until crisp and tender. Enjoy!
Cook’s Note: Rub the dried rosemary between the palms of your hands; this will release the oils in the rosemary.