Despite its long and storied association with the Emerald Isle, the potato’s roots were not in Ireland. In fact, potatoes were unknown in Europe until after 1537, when the Spanish forces of conquistador Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada landed in what is now Colombia. They were searching for gold. They found potatoes. While spuds were probably not the prize de Quesada was seeking, they would certainly prove worth their weight in gold in the coming centuries.
The tubers originated in their wild form in the Andean regions of Peru and Bolivia. In fact, archaeologists have found evidence that they have been used as food since 10,000-8,000 BCE. Domestication of the plant came later, although there is wide variation among experts in pinpointing when precisely cultivation began.