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The humble potato's circuitously dark journey to kitchen staple

How the spud saved empires, nearly wiped out a country, and is still enjoyed worldwide today

Today, potatoes are found all over the world, and in almost every cuisine. Americans are particularly fond of the plant — French fries are as synonymous with America as baseball and apple pie are. Of course, no one culture or cuisine is as closely associated with the spud as the Irish, whose history is inexorably entwined with the crop. The two are so closely linked that you'd be forgiven for assuming the potato to be native to Ireland. But the potato's origin story is far more complex and its journey to worldwide staple far more meandering with surprising ramifications for the way we grow the crop today.

Find out more about the role of the potato in world history, just one part of the huge international shift from the Columbian exchange:

1493: Uncovering the New World that Columbus Created

Listen to more of The Week's podcasts:

* The surprisingly recent meteoric rise of balsamic vinegar

* The surprisingly dark origins of festive gingerbread

* Why I hate cupcakes

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