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How Indians took to the trusty tuber potato

Last week’s Garam Masala was about the United Nation’s declaration of 2008 as the International Year of the Potato (IYP) and how the potato first came to India. The British appeared to be the most likely potato pioneers, introducing it in the hills around the Doon valley, from where it spread.

Growing a cool climate crop in a country that is mostly tropical plains did pose a problem, but new varieties were developed suitable for Indian winter cultivation and cold storage facilities enabled these potatoes to be stored for the full year. Today India ranks as third largest producer of potatoes.

Production though is only one part of the story. The other part is on how Indian consumers took to these strange new roots—and why despite acceptance, we still eat relatively little of it. As SK Pandey, director of the Central Potato Research Institute (CPRI) in Shimla pointed out to me, the global average is 33 kg per person per year, going up to a massive 120 kg per capita in parts of Europe. But in India, consumption is still only 15-17 kg a year.

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Publication date: 4/7/2008


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