Is your name
And not patata,
You weren't born Castilian:
You are dark
our skin ...
and soft you are,
Mere, mere pulp
white rose
you bloom
there inside,
in the earth...
... enemy of hunger,
of all the nations ...
... unending treasure
of towns ...
( Fragments of Ode to the potato,
Pablo Neruda , 1968 )


The potato grew from Andes in South America, at highlands, next to the lake Titicaca, close to the present-day frontier among Peru and Bolivia. There it has been grown from more than 7000 years. Once domesticated, the potato spread over all the Andes and, when the Spaniards came at beginnings of the XVI century, the farmers grew hundred of varieties at the highlands (between 2000 and the 4000 metres of altitude) where today is Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Also it was grown in Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela and the north-west of Argentina.

Peru and Bolivia own the bigger diversity of developed varieties, with a great variability, as in forms and colours of tubers, as in the characteristics of the plant and colours of the flower.

The most ancient European cultures ( S tuberosum ssp andígena) came from the high zones of Peru and Colombia, with short day photoperiods. Varieties were adapted to long days of European summers, at crop season. The adaptation process produced a set of changes in the potato's morphology. This did not happen in the Canary Islands, where the descendants of andígena cultivars , brought direct from the Peru in 1622. Its morphology didn't change as it was cultivated under short days photoperiods.

Arrival of the potato to the Canary Islands

The exact arrival date of the potato to the Canary Islands is not known. Probably it was introduced direct from Peru or Colombia in the first years of the decade of 1,560, because in 1567 a Dutch vessel loaded potatoes in Las Palmas Gran Canaria heading Antwerp (Lobo-Cabrera, 1988):

". .. And likewise I receive three medium barrels you say contain potatoes and oranges and green lemons"

(reproduction of the note dated 28-9-1567 from the public notary Lorenzo Palenzuela)

There is similar information, seven years later, related to a shipment of goods from Tenerife (via Gran Canaria) to Rouen:

". .. Likewise two barrels with potatoes from Teneriffe and eight ( ... ) full of liquor"

(reproduction of the note dated 24-4-1574 from the public notary Louis de Balboa)

The first printed text in Canary Islands, where the cultivation of the potato o the Islands is mentioned, is the work “Elementary lessons of theoretic agriculture, practice and economic” by Dr. D. Juan Bautista Bandini, published in the printing house Bazzani, in La Laguna, in 1816 (although the text was written up among 1808 and 1813). About the grown potato varieties, Bandini says:

"There are many varieties of it: early and late ; with white, pink, or blue flowers; with white, brown, yellow, red or purple epidermis; o f round, long or oval figure, cornered or with excrescences"

Regarding to the arrival of the potato to the Canary Islands, Bandini shares the opinion of his friend Viera y Clavijo, who in his Dictionary of Natural History, written in 1799 and published in 1866 by the “Land Friendship Society of Las Palmas, says:

" ... the first potatoes were brought from Peru by Don Juan Bautista de Castro by the year 1622. This mister made them sow at his lands in Icod el Alto from where so happily they have spread all over the Canary Islands".

Although the presence of the potato in the Canary Islands since 1560 seems to be confirmed, its cultivation probably was in a sporadic way, without much diffusion. Same occurred in Europe, where it began as a garden curiosity. It seems logic to think the introduction was 1622, quoted by Viera, with ideal soil and climate conditions. This caused a great impact and contributed to spread out the cultivation on the islands. The potato's first cultivation zone, Icod el Alto, is still one of the places where it has the most established, with presence of primitive varieties, disappeared in other places of the island.

With the arrival of the crop to Icod el Alto also the basic cultivation knowledge came. The potato adapted to the climate and the soil of islands and the canarian farmers adopted it as one of their important crops.


• D. Eovaldo Hernández Pérez. Profesor Fitotecnia y Bioquímico. Libro las Papas Antiguas de Canarias (pag. 1-14). APAC, 2002.