Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Tubers From Toluca

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, we offer further proof that Mexico is to blame for absolutely everything in the world:

The cause of [1847 Irish Potato] Famine was a water mold (Phytophthora infestans) that originated in Mexico. This fungus-like mold results in a disease called “late blight” in which entire fields of mature potato plants are destroyed within days. The name “late blight” is because the mold strikes late in the growing season, close to harvest time. Infected tubers are subject to soft-rot bacteria which render them useless as food. What is worse, the discarded rotting tubers can easily re-infect the succeeding year’s crop.

One kind of late blight mold, A1, crossed the Atlantic in the 1840’s, reaching Europe in 1845 before rapidly spreading across the continent to reach Ireland. Although cultivated potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) originated in Peru, the late blight mold appears to have originated in the Toluca Valley of Mexico (adjacent to the western edge of Mexico City) where it is found in several related wild-growing Solanum tubers.

Jesus. Thanks, assholes! Guess this kinda takes the edge of that swine flu thing - what'd that kill, a few thousand? That's basically a long weekend in 1840s Skibbereen. Anyway, as a result, everyone (including our ancestors) left Ireland and crossed the Atlantic, where they became the most reviled immigrant group in America - paving the way for Mexicans to be despised there 150 years later, while fifth-generation gringos like us defend them by saying things like, "remember how they treated the Irish, and now we've had Irish-American presidents!". It's almost as if the Mexicans planned it...

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Could have used that info. when I was doing a story on late blight for a TV station in the "Famous Potato" state some 14 years ago. Where was 'Burro Hall' when I needed it?

Darn those Mexicans, not just "frijoleros" now they are "paperos" thanks to this newly acquired fact.

Burro Hall said...

Fourteen years ago....working for Rupert Murdoch at "A Current Affair."

What, you never did anything you were ashamed of?

Anonymous said...

14 years ago I was working for the WSJ, and at a dinner in Princeton (South Brunswick) which Murdoch attended. I was sitting with Peter Kann and his guy Murdoch was at a different table, and now he's the owner. But now not many people like the paper.

Anonymous said...

Just pondering how the that might have affected the Irish loyalties during the Mexican-American war, had they known...

Burro Hall said...

Probably not much, since they happened at the same time, so none of the San Patricios would have been famine refugees. It was more an issue that they didn't see the point of fighting Catholics on behalf of a largely Protestant US. Not that the Irish have ever needed a well thought-out reason to be contrarian, of course.

Anonymous said...

Good point. Wasn't a great time to be Catholic in the U.S.

D.S. Monoclonius said...

The more persuasive evidence points to a Peruvian origin of the blight, specifically brought over in Peruvian guano in the 1840s (guano being the most valuable export from Latin American in the 19th century). Since the potato was from Peru the blight had developed with it. if you need other factoids about Peruvian guano, let me know...

Burro Hall said...

Dude, we can never get enough Peruvian guano facts here. You know that.