Back in South America where thousands of varieties of my favorite tuber exist it remained a reliable food source. But only a few varieties made the journey to the “Old World.” Potatoes there did not have the genetic diversity to resist disease. Eventually a fungus spread through European potato crops. In 1845 Ireland was hit especially hard by the blight, which was one of the triggers of the Great Irish Diaspora, and one reason why I am an American.
The potato is an important crop throughout Europe, Asia, and India. Each region where potatoes exist has put its own unique stamp on the staple leaving us rich with delicious ways to enjoy our spuds. One of my favorites is with Italian gnocchi. The versatile small potato dumplings can be used in pasta-like entrées or as substitutes for dumplings, and even as an interesting alternative to rice, potatoes or other starches.