Eva Ekeblad was a Swedish countess , noble and agronomist who discovered how to extract starch from potatoes, paving the way for gluten-free baking and alcohols such as vodka, moonshine and potato wine.
Ekeblad, who was born in Sweden on July 10, 1724, would be celebrating her 293rd birthday today and Google has created a Doodle in her honour.
Who was Eva Ekeblad?
Ekeblad was the first woman to be admitted to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for her discovery of how to use potatoes to make flour and alcohol.
Potatoes first arrived in Sweden in 1658, but for a century would only be available to the aristocracy. Before Ekeland’s discovery, potatoes weren’t considered to be edible for humans, but were reserved for animals.
Ekeland grew her own set of potatoes and began experimenting, having heard that in Germany it had been used to create alcoholic drinks. In 1746, Ekeblad discovered that the rare vegetables could be cooked, crushed and dried to create a form of flour.
At 24 she submitted her findings to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and became the first female to be admitted. The discovery helped solve a food crisis in Sweden, freeing up traditional cereals for food as it could be used to make alcohol.
It came at a time when Sweden had a shortage of cereals, such as oats and barley, which were necessary for the country’s food and alcohol supplies. But it also contributed to a spike in alcohol consumption.
The vegetable wouldn’t become a common food staple in Sweden until later in the 19th century, around the same time it rose to prominence in British cooking and underpinned economic progress and the Industrial Revolution.
After her death in 1786, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences wouldn’t elect another woman until 1951.