Diets and civilizations

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,603
Florania
In 'the New World' the potato was a staple food, of which around 200 varieties were grown. Perhaps an early super food, when considering the needs of the plant vs its calorific value.

Potatoes were the staple food in nineteenth century Ireland, where around 2 MILLION people ate spuds and nothing else. So, when the potato was hit with a blight, around 1845-1850, the result was a nationwide famine which killed between 1-1.5 million people. With another couple of million migrating to the US, Canada and Australia.

Currently, it is my understanding the use of potato as a staple food is increasing in China and other countries..
The suggestion is that potatoes are 80% water and are rather inadequate for strenuous physical works and activities.
Since our diets are increasingly diverse, we are substantially less dependent on our staples today.
 
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
"A staple"' doesn't mean the only source of food, merely the major part of the diet.


I've always found it hard to believe that people could live on potatoes alone. For this post I've done a bit of reading.It seems it's untrue the Irish had nothing else to eat besides spuds. It is however true that potatoes were their staple food and that people starved to death without it

Some stuff I found online:

Digging for potatoes during the Irish Famine
This illustration shows a woman digging for potatoes during the Irish Famine c1845-1849. The potato crop was ruined during these years due to a blight or disease. The first outbreak of the disease in the potato crop was first reported in County Carlow in September 1845. This illustration is taken from the Illustrated London News 1849.
Courtesy of Carlow County Library


Digging for potatoes during the Irish Famine
Courtesy of Carlow County Library
Digging for potatoes during the Irish Famine
This illustration shows a woman digging for potatoes during the Irish Famine c1845-1849. The potato crop was ruined during these years due to a blight or disease. The first outbreak of the disease in the potato crop was first reported in County Carlow in September 1845. This illustration is taken from the Illustrated London News 1849.
Courtesy of Carlow County Library
Enlarge image



The Potato in Ireland


FROM YAHOO answers:

The following may help you understand

*Potatoes were the only crop that could feed a family on such a small amount of land

*Potato blight hit other parts of Europe too, but there was only famine in Ireland

*During the Famine, Ireland exported 6 Million pounds of food and money to England. In the mid 19th Century this was an astronomical amount of money

*Queen Victoria donated £2000.

*There are suggestions from some, particularly american, historians, that the famine could be considered Genocide carried out against the Irish people by the English. (see Francis A Boyle)

"The almighty sent the blight, but the English created the famine"

Question about the Irish Potato Famine?

There are truckloads of information on line. The stuff about monoculture is fascinating.
 

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,603
Florania
Regarding the OP, I don't see a link between specific grains and a civilization's welfare. In many places in northern Europe the potato replaced other grains like rye, barley, millet and wheat a few hundred years ago. Can we demonstrate a decline in the civilization based simply upon that factor? While some foodstuffs may be more nutritious, people have to eat what they have. Potatoes are so easy to grow, even in the most infertile ground.
Quite the contrary, these potato eating parts of the world are some of the most peaceful, advanced, socially progressive places of the world.
They supplant their diets with meats and vegetables, of course.
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,678
Since our diets are increasingly diverse, we are substantially less dependent on our staples today.
Actually people eat FAR less diverse diets now with mono agriculture supplanting normal local seasonal products. 50 years ago people at on average over 250 varieties of plants annually, today it is less than 100.
 

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,603
Florania
Actually people eat FAR less diverse diets now with mono agriculture supplanting normal local seasonal products. 50 years ago people at on average over 250 varieties of plants annually, today it is less than 100.
Why do I keep witnessing new veggies and fruits here and there? A few mushrooms unavailable or new in my childhood, such as king oyster mushrooms and shimeiji mushrooms, are commonplace today.
 
Mar 2019
1,801
Kansas
Why do I keep witnessing new veggies and fruits here and there? A few mushrooms unavailable or new in my childhood, such as king oyster mushrooms and shimeiji mushrooms, are commonplace today.
Modern food variety is based almost entirely on the ability of the produce to be cooled or frozen for transport. Apples are a great example. There are over 7000 varieties, but only a handful are available for regular consumption because most varieties don't refrigerate well.
 

Devdas

Ad Honorem
Apr 2015
4,856
India
In India wheat, rice and lentils are the staple diet, potato is considered as poor man vegetable but onion is considered as the staple vegetable.
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,678
Why do I keep witnessing new veggies and fruits here and there? A few mushrooms unavailable or new in my childhood, such as king oyster mushrooms and shimeiji mushrooms, are commonplace today.
How many foods that were regularly consumed have disappeared though? Depending where you were raised it might not be as obvious but modern food consumption is about storage/harvest ability, pest resistance, and taste. Foods that can't meet one of those criteria disappear from the market. Doesn't mean some food scientists are not working on traits to make them marketable or splice in usable genes to other foods but the vast majority of effort is expended into making new varieties of already popular foods. Heirloom tomatoes, apples, grains, sugars, etc.

Some foods like Avocados and Almonds are everywhere due to water infrastructure and consumer demand that didn't exist a few years ago while former staples like millet, long-grain rice, and cassava are being replaced with cheaper to harvest and better-tasting alternatives.
 
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Oct 2016
1,162
Merryland
I understand things like cassava and yams (NOT sweet potatoes) are used less and less

only time I see millet is in bird seed.
 

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,603
Florania
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