How the potato "conquered" Europe

For the first time, potatoes appeared in Europe in the middle of the 16th century, but for a long time they were not eaten by the inhabitants of the Old World. There were rumors that potatoes caused terrible diseases. In addition, some Europeans have tried to eat "tops" - poisonous berries that are formed in the place of inflorescences.

For more than 200 years, only potato flowers have been used, which were used to decorate the outfits of influential persons. But it was not possible to force the people to eat this "earthy apple".

King Louis XVI of France decided to go for a trick: in 1787, an armed guard was posted near the potato field, which left their posts at night. A better advertisement for potatoes could not be imagined: at night, peasants secretly sneaked into the field and "stole" the forbidden fruit.

Soon a series of wars and revolutions began in the country, and the people were able to fully appreciate the nutritional value of this previously unloved root crop.

But the king of Prussia, Frederick II the Great, solved this problem much easier: he threatened to cut off the noses and ears of those peasants who refuse to plant potatoes on their plots.

Now it is difficult to imagine how Europeans could do without potato dishes several centuries ago. In our time, the inhabitants of Europe consume potatoes much more than, for example, the Americans, although this root crop came to us precisely from overseas.

In Belgium, there is even a potato museum, which contains a huge number of exhibits that tell about the history of this plant and its difficult journey from America to Europe.

And in our country, potatoes did not immediately receive popular recognition. Although the first attempts to introduce it into the diet of Russians were made by Peter the First. He carried out many reforms in Russia, but the "potato reform" clearly failed.

Even in the first half of the 19th, peasants rebelled against attempts to force them to start growing potatoes. But in 1839 and 1840 there was a grain harvest failure in Russia. Emperor Nicholas I took up the problem of feeding the people in earnest, having issued a decree in 1842 on the compulsory planting of potatoes. A wave of "potato riots" swept across Russia, which were brutally suppressed. The subjects of the ruler of Russia did not want to grow the "devil's apple", as the potatoes were called at that time.

However, Nicholas I did not always act only with a whip, sometimes lured with a carrot: for planting potatoes, they gave out cash prizes and certificates of merit. Gradually, potatoes became commonplace in the Russian fields and they even respectfully began to be called “the second bread”.