The origin of the potato
Our potatoes ("pyry") are not ours at all! They are South American. Their way to the Polish and Greater Poland tables was not a walk in the park. It took time to gain recognition and popularity. Today nobody can imagine regional cuisine without them. Fortunately, there is no such need. Pyry was, is and will be, although there are reports of this, global warming may adversely affect the possibility of cultivation in the future. All you have to do is enjoy them at every possible opportunity and remember that pyry tastes best in Wielkopolska!
Until the beginning of the 16th century, no one in Europe had heard of potatoes. The homeland of the potato is South America, and more precisely the areas of today's Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador. We owe the appearance of Potato in Europe to Spanish sailors who originally brought it to Spain, Italy and France, from where the exotic mini-crops went further north and east, reaching Germany, Poland and Russia. Initially, the potato was grown on a small scale as an ornamental plant with healing potential. The tubers were only a culinary curiosity in which the culinary value was not noticed. Early varieties of potatoes reportedly had a bitter aftertaste which was suspect as most natural poisons are bitter. After years of cultivation in gardens and many more or less deliberate modifications, they gained taste and became a recognized product in the kitchen. Apparently, it is the potatoes that have been called the greatest treasure that Europe has managed to obtain from deep-sea journeys. Looking at the scale on which it is currently cultivated and used in the kitchen, it is difficult to deny this observation.
Potatoes came to Poland as a botanical curiosity during the reign of Jan III Sobieski. In the second half of the 18th century, thanks to settlers from Germany, they were brought into cultivation, although they still did not arouse the trust and enthusiasm of Poles, who treated them rather as food for animals.
Only in the 19th century did potatoes become a widely cultivated and consumed product. In 1810, per capita of Wielkopolska, they amounted to about 34 kg, and in 1878 as much as 1290 kg. An interesting fact is that potatoes, today associated with lunchtime, were eaten at any time of the day, also for breakfast. Potato pancakes and potato additions to dairy soups were very common.
Potatoes associated with the countryside and a low standard of living had to wait for acceptance in the high society. Appreciated in country mansions and manor houses, they made their way to cities, among others thanks to the cooking service, which was often associated with rural culinary traditions.
Potatoes are one of the most popular products used in Polish cuisine today. Interestingly, despite hundreds of recipes and ideas for using it, it is difficult to find it on festive tables during Christmas or Easter.
The inhabitants of Wielkopolska have a special fondness for pyr. They like to use potatoes in their kitchens. The same can be said about the chefs from Wielkopolska, whose creations have often amazed gourmets.
Eat pyry and look for it on your culinary journeys.