Monday, May 11, 2015

The Traveling Sweet Potato

We received several comments regarding the series we did on the Sweet Potato and decided to include them in one combined response: 
   Comment #1: “Sweet potatoes are supposed to be native to Central America, but as far as I know, the Chinese were eating sweet potatoes a very long time ago. In China and Japan, baked and steamed sweet potatoes are popularly sold as street food” Jenkins A.
Response: Radiocarbon dating places the Sweet Potato in Andean Peru in 8000 B.C. While I am not a fan of Carbon-14 dating, it does provide us with comparable dating, that is, which is older. Peruvian Sweet Potatoes out-date Central America (Mesoamerica) by at least 3000 radiocarbon dating years, which should suggest to anyone that the age (origination) of the Sweet Potato was in South America.
    Comment #2: “In your article on the sweet potato, you mentioned some work done in DNA—what exactly did this prove? Everyone knows the sweet potato was found in the Pacific islands. How do we know it didn’t go from there to South America instead of the other way around as you claim?” Constance W.
    Response: The earliest radiocarbon dated finds of the Sweet Potato in Polynesia is about 1000 A.D., or some 7000 years after it has been dated in South America. As far as I am concerned, these dates (like all Carbon-14 testing) are questionable in year period (8000 B.C./1000 A.D.), they show which is the oldest, and by far, South American evidence of the Sweet Potato is far older than that of Polynesia.
    Comment #3: “I read that anthropologist Richard Scaglion of the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania has said that the evidence shows that the Polynesians visited South America, not South Americans reaching Polynesia” Freddie T.
Response: We’ve written about this several times; however, Scaglion (left) is a died-in-the-wool west to east anthropologist when discussing the Pacific Ocean. H view, like others like him, believe that man came from Asia, and expanded across Micronesia to Macaronesia (Macronesia) to Polynesia—thus, from Polynesia to South America. The fact that while Micronesia and Macaronesia both show a distinct ancestral relationship with Asia and Indonesia, Polynesia does not and is far more related to South American ancestry. The point is, despite winds, currents, and all known pre-Age of Discovery movement in the Pacific moving with winds and currents which flow from east to west, Scaglion and his type of anthropologist all insist in an opposite movement because they cannot believe that those from South America could have sailed west into the Pacific, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
    Comment #4: “How can you connect the sweet potato with Alma 46:40 about roots for the benefit of man? That seems like quite a stretch” Michael P.
Response: Actually, it is quite easy. Mormon, drawing upon Alma’s writing, tells us the Lord provided “plants and roots” for the benefit of man. Certain plants, like the Cinchona tree, which provided early man with malaria-fighting quinine, originated in Andean Peru—as have numerous other herbal medicines that have a long history of fighting diseases, etc., before modern technology in medicine allows us to synthesize cures today. As for the Sweet Potato, which originated in Andean Peru, may be one of nature's unsurpassed sources of beta-carotene. Several recent studies have shown the superior ability of Sweet Potatoes to raise our blood levels of vitamin A. This benefit may be particularly true for children. Several studies from Africa show that this tuber is used there and children improve their vitamin A deficiency—no wonder it’s called “protector of the children” in Africa.
    Sweet Potatoes are also found to contain between 100-1,600 micrograms (RAE) of vitamin A in every 3.5 ounces—enough, on average, to meet 35% of all vitamin A needs, and in many cases enough to meet over 90% of vitamin A needs (from this single food alone).  Sweet Potatoes contain high levels of antioxidant nutrients, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and blood sugar-regulating nutrients. In some studies, sweet potatoes have been shown to be a better source of bioavailable beta-carotene than green leafy vegetables, and because sweet potatoes are available in many countries on a virtual year-round basis, their ability to provide key antioxidants like beta-carotene makes them a standout antioxidant food.
    In addition, they are packed also with vitamins B6 (pyridoxine), and C. They have plenty of manganese, copper, potassium, iron and dietary fiber, together with complex carbohydrates. But Sweet Potatoes are low in calories and fat-free. And despite its name, Sweet Potatoes help to stabilize blood sugar levels and to lower insulin resistance (Diabetics should eat more sweet potatoes).
    I would say that the Sweet Potato tuber (root) is extremely beneficial to man—and since it originated in the Land of Promise, I see a distinct connection between Mormon’s comment and this “root.”
    Comment #5: “Just because there are thousands of varieties of potatoes in Peru does not mean that is where they originated” Lambert S.
Response: That was used not as a proof, but simply as a rational viewpoint. Where the potato originated is well documented. According to R. J. Hijmans and D.M. Spooner, in “Geographic distribution of wild potato species,” American Journal of Botany of the Botanical Society of America #88, wild potato species occur throughout the Americas from the United States to southern Chile. The potato was originally believed to have been domesticated independently in multiple locations, but according to “Finding rewrites the evolutionary history of the origin of potatoes” (University of Wisconsin-Madison 2005), genetic testing of the wide variety of cultivars and wild species proved a single origin for potatoes in the area of present-day southern Peru and extreme northwestern Bolivia, where they were domesticated approximately 7,000–10,000 years ago (David M. Spooner, et al, “A single domestication for potato based on multilocus amplified fragment length polymorphism genotyping,” PNAS #102, and numerous other studies).  
    In addition, according to Katherine Berrin of the Larco Museum and the “Spririt of Ancient Peru,” the potato has been an essential crop in the Andes since the pre-Columbian era. The Moche culture from Northern Peru made ceramics from earth, water, and fire. This pottery was a sacred substance, formed in significant shapes and used to represent important themes. Potatoes are represented anthropomorphically as well as naturally. Also, the potato has always been considered a New World Crop, generally meaning it was native to North and South America before 1492 and not found anywhere else in the world at that time. Many of these crops have since come to be grown around the world and have often become an integral part of the cuisines of various Old World cultures', but their origination remains in the Americas. According to the Table of Ancient New World Crops: Roots and Tubers unique to the New World were arrowroot, jicama, camas root, hopniss, leren, manioc, yucca, cassava, mashua, oca, potato, sweet potato, ulluco and yacon.

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