The Great Potato Famine

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate November 2001

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The Great Potato Famine The potato famine in Ireland was one of the most famous famines this world had ever seen, and still is. It devastated crops, families, and even whole counties. In a farm-based society such as Ireland, they were helpless to stop it. This essay describes just how bad it got, and what was done about it.

In 1845 Phytophthora-infestons hit Ireland. This was a new type of fungus that hit very hard. The fungus came and spread so rapidly that nothing could be done. A fully healthy leaf could be turned into nothing in less that a day. A test was done and in just 3 hours a leaf went from healthy green to sickly brown with many holes in it. But that's not all this horrible fungus had, it stayed in the soil through the off-season and the prevented farmers even trying to plant potatoes. Now normally this might not seem like such a serious thing, but the Irish had come to almost totally depend on the potato for all their food.

How did the Irish sink into such a tight spot, The Potato was an essential part of the Irish diet. It is packed with nutrients and vitamins, grows quickly and in almost any soil, and can be harvested in mass quantities. It was also very, very cheap to produce and buy, and was able to sustain a diet on its own. By the 1840s, the Potato was a major dietary staple in the Irish culture; especially to the poor, and is by some believed to have influenced the substantial population growth that occurred during that period. The variety of dishes possible with Potatoes and little else accounts for a large portion of the Irish cuisine. This made the potato a very popular food...