”This potato could be just as important as those we eat today”. The prehistoric potato in Utah that can change everything
Scientists have found in Utah tiny amounts of ”mashed potato” that date back about 10,900 years, stating that ”this potato could be just as important as those we eat today”.
The ”well-preserved starch granules” were discovered in cracks of rocks that were used for grinding and represent the oldest evidence that the plant was being cultivated in North America.
The area where the discovery was made, in Escalante, Utah, was known to the first European settlers as ”Potato Valley” and it is were several Native American tribes, such as the Apache, Navajo and Hopi were growing the ”Four Corners” potatoes (Solanum jamesii).
Nevertheless, most potatoes eaten today descend from the species Solanum tuberosum, domesticated in the Andes over 7,000 years ago.
The Four Corners potato might be used to make the current potato more resilient to drought and disease, which prompted Professor Lisbeth Louderback, archaeologist at the Natural History Museum of Utah, to state, ”This potato could be just as important as those we eat today, not only in terms of a food plant from the past, but as a potential food source for the future. The potato has become a forgotten part of Escalante’s history. Our work is to help rediscover this heritage.”
The Four Corners potato turned out to be highly nutritious as well, boasting twice as much as protein, zinc and manganese, as well as three times more calcium and iron that the Solanum tuberosum.