I am deeply inspired by the mission of Potato Perspective, a site that painstakingly traces the juridical status of potato varieties in the EU. Its creator, Åsa Sonjasdotter, started growing traditional species of potato in Øresund, between Sweden and Denmark, but because the species she planted weren’t on the EU’s list of potato varieties, technically her cultivation of them commercially was illegal.
She did a little research on why that was and suggests that the potato is a ‘global migrant’ (its origins are in South America) that is at the mercy of crazy global trade agreements and laws of genes and registrations. (“The descendants of the wild plant from the Andean mountains that I grew turned out to be potential criminal goods,” she writes).
To someone that doesn’t know the least bit about food laws (ie, meeee!), the rhetoric behind it borders on the totally ridiculous and nonsensical, especially because the humble potato is the least controversial vegetable that I can think of. To wit: “Today these old-fashioned varieties face restrictions imposed by the registration regulations of the EU. Most of them are forbidden to grow commercially, the reason being that no one wants to register them. And if you are not a registered potato in EU, you might become an illegal potato.”
An illegal potato! But what initially captivated me was Sonjasdotter’s stunning, glowing photographs – so much rare beauty hewn straight from the murky dirt. These photographs give potatoes a distinct non-potato quality; a fantastical, ethereal embodiment of our most humble starch. Wouldn’t you love to try all these crazy varieties? Earth-bound jewels, on the tip of our tongue…