September 21, 2020 A taste of Nordic food and nature

The Potato in Scandinavia

During the 19th century, the potato became very important. It yielded large crops and allowed a large population growth. Throughout the 1800s, large childrenflocks was bred on herring and potatoes. The potato was an important vitamin C source, and along with rutabaga it was an important supplement to the diet and prevented scurvy.

Potatoes are one of the many South American plants that Europeans became acquainted with during the 16th century. It could also be grown in Northern Europe, but it took a long time to grow potatoes at a large scale.

Unlike other so-called colonial goods such as tobacco, sugar and coffee, which quickly became popular, it took a long time with the potato. This may be because the potato was a substitute for grain, which most were usted to and prefered, while tobacco and coffee were new flavors, and sugar was a good substitute for honey.

In Agder (Southern parts of Norway) and in Western Norway, the potato was grown in small and well fertilized and processed fields, which yielded good crops. On the other hand, the flatlands on Hedmark (central Norway) were far later to use the potato.

The many “potato priests” in the 1700s spoke warmly about the potato and many gave out guidelines of how to harvest and use the potato. In Norway, the food scarcity during the Napoleonic Warriors were really boosting potato cultivation. The blockade made the supply of grain difficult, and frost and rain destroyed the grain crops. Many replacements were used and the potato was probably the most tasty.

In 1816, the Parliament (Regjering) decided to open for commercial liquorice burning for more people. Potato was used as a substitute for grain in the production of liquorice. Thus, the potato was also used as a farm in the vast fields.

The potato was used in many varieties as human food. Boiled or substitute for cereal in flatbread and “lefse”(flatbread). Local varieties like raspeball (potato dumpling) became popular and potatoes were used as animal feed. Several sites in the country experienced that the use of potato and cereal crops yielded good crops and led to good soil cultivation.

However, the potato was vulnerable to plant diseases. In Ireland, flawed potato crops in the 1840s led to extensive famine and emigration. In Norway, dry crops and other damage could also destroy crops. Many

The first agricultural statistics show that in 1835 the wheat crop was 166,000 tonnes while the potato crop was 261,000 tons. The potato crops were twice as large as the grain crops throughout the rest of the 19th century. Now, herring and potato were everyday-meals, in addition to the well-known porridge. And it is fair to say, that it has stayed that way ever since!

Coupled with the fact that the potato plant is nutritious and relatively easy to grow, the potato has been very important in our diet in Norway, especially in crisis situations. Still, the consumption of potatoes is relatively high in Norway (about 60 kg per person per year)!

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