Potato Facts And Information
How much do you know about potatoes? But knows it comes in thousands of varieties as red, blue and yellow. For potatoes are the most popular. Potatoes are often thought of as a comfort food — richly mashed with butter and sour cream or crisply fried in vegetable oil.Here are some potato facts and information according to U.S. Potato Board and the Idaho Potato Museum :
1. The word “potato” comes from the Spanish “patata.” The nickname “spud” comes from the digging tool used in planting potatoes: “espada” in Spanish, “spyd” in Dutch and “spade” in English. The word eventually became associated with the potato itself.
2. It is a myth that the word “spud” is an acronym for the Society for the Prevention of an Unwholesome Diet, a supposed activist group that wanted to keep the potato out of Britain in the 19th century.
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3. Potatoes are members of the nightshade family, like tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.
4. They are not root vegetables; potatoes are actually the swollen part of the stem of the perennial Solanum tuberosum. This part of the plant is called a tuber, which functions to provide food to the leafy part of the plant.
5. The “eyes” of potatoes are buds, which will sprout into branches if left alone.
6. There are thousands of potato varieties, but not all are commercially available. Popular varieties include Russet, red, white, yellow, purple/blue, fingerling and petite.
7. Idaho, whose license plates bear the slogan “Famous Potatoes,” is the top potato-producing state, but spuds are grown in all 50 U.S. states. Following Idaho are Washington, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Oregon, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, Maine and California.
8. In 2013, there were more than 1 million acres of potatoes planted and harvested, which produced 43.7 billion lbs. (20 billion kg) of the vegetable.
9. The average American eats about 124 lbs. (56 kg) of potatoes per year; Germans eat about twice as much.
10. Potatoes were traditionally used to make vodka , although today most vodka is produced using fermented grains such as corn, wheat or rye.
11. According to Guinness World Records, the largest potato grown was 7 lbs., 1 ounce (3.2 kg).
12. The Inca in Peru were the first to cultivate potatoes, growing the vegetables around 8000 B.C. to 5000 B.C.
13. In 1536, Spanish Conquistadors conquered Peru, and carried potatoes back to Europe.
14. Sir Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes to Ireland in 1589. It took nearly four decades for the potato to spread to the rest of Europe.
15. Because potatoes were not mentioned in the Bible, many people looked at them with suspicion. For many years, people thought that eating potatoes would cause leprosy.
16. Potatoes arrived in the British colonies in 1621 when the governor of Bermuda, Nathaniel Butler, sent two large cedar chests containing potatoes and other vegetables to Gov. Francis Wyatt at Jamestown.
17. Scotch-Irish immigrants planted the first permanent potato patches in North America in 1719, near Londonderry, New Hampshire.
18. A royal chef named A. Parmentier helped King Louis XIV popularize the potato in France in the 18th century. He created a feast with only potato dishes, which he realized was possible when he was fed only potatoes while imprisoned in Germany. Benjamin Franklin, ambassador to France, was in attendance at Parmentier’s feast in 1767.
19. Marie Antoinette turned potatoes into a fashion statement when she paraded through the French countryside wearing potato blossoms in her hair.
20. French fries were introduced to the United States by Thomas Jefferson, who served them in the White House during his presidency (1801-1809).
21. Another royal chef, Collinet, chef for French King Louis Phillippe, unintentionally created soufflés, or puffed potatoes, one night in the mid-1800s. When the king arrived late for dinner, Collinet plunged already-fried potatoes into extremely hot oil to reheat them. To the chef’s surprise and the king’s delight, the potatoes puffed up like little balloons.
22. The Irish Potato Famine : In the 1840s, an outbreak of potato blight swept through Europe and wiped out the potato crop in many countries. The Irish working class lived largely on potatoes, and when the blight reached Ireland, the residents’ main staple food disappeared. Many poverty-stricken families struggled to survive. Over the course of the famine, almost 1 million people died from starvation or disease. Another million left Ireland, mostly for Canada and the United States.
23. In 1853, railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt complained that his potatoes were cut too thick and sent them back to the kitchen at a resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. To spite him, the chef, George Crum, sliced some potatoes paper thin, fried them in hot oil, salted and served them. To everyone’s surprise, Vanderbilt loved his “Saratoga Crunch Chips,” and the potato chip was born.
24. The potato was the first vegetable to be grown in space. In October 1995, NASA and the University of Wisconsin created the technology to do so with the goal of feeding astronauts on long space voyages.
Smithsonian magazine: How the Potato Changed the World