Sweet Potato

An American original

Originated in South/Central America

The Sweet potato was domesticated 5,000 years ago in Central America, and remnants that date back 8,000 years ago have been found in South America. They are one of the oldest vegetables known to man.

Three recipes from the Old World that feature the potato are

-Italian-style lamb with sweet potatoes - Spicy African Sweet potato stew-Japanese Sweet Potato Dessert

Transmission of the sweet potato around the planet was primarily the work of the Spanish and Portuguese, who got it from the South Americans and spread it to Europe. That doesn't work for Polynesia, though; it's too early by 500 years. Scholars generally assume that either seeds of the potato were brought to Polynesia by birds such as the Golden Plover that regularly cross the Pacific; or by accidental raft drift by lost sailors from the South American coast. This tuber traveled through the Pacific to Asia, where its popularity makes it one of the world's top 15 food crops today. Native to Mexico, the sweet potato has no botanical or ecological relationship with the true potato from the Andes. The Spanish brought sweet potatoes to the Philippines and the Portuguese distributed them further across the Pacific. The Maori integrated sweet potatoes into their mythology and have elaborate ceremonies connected to its planting, harvest, and storage. Today, China grows nearly 80 percent of the world's sweet potatoes. During a major Japanese famine in the 1730's, sweet potatoes prevented many from starving. Many nations have integrated the sweet potato into their cultural cuisine.

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