National Potato Month
Happy National Potato Month! While the humble potato is an unlikely hero in global history, this tuber has had an extremely important impact on the history of mankind. Below are a few fun facts about the potato so that you might better appreciate this amazing food.
- The potato is originally from the Central Andes, where it grew wild at high altitudes in the mountains of Peru and Bolivia. It was first cultivated around 8000-5000 BC, and quickly became the staple crop of some of the greatest empires in human history, including the Inca.
- There are over 5,000 species of potato, with 3,000 alone growing in the Peruvian, Ecuadorian and Bolivian Andes. Perhaps the strangest potato preparation is the “chuño”, which is a freeze-dried potato that is edible years after it has been dried.
- While potatoes today are the antithesis of exciting or exotic food, they were the subject of much curiosity after they were introduced in Europe. In fact, many peasants rejected the crop out right when it was first brought back from the Americas. To promote the potato, Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, wore a headdress made of potato flowers to a royal ball.
- The potato helped Russia become a major European power when many landowners and peasants switched to potato cultivation in the mid-19th century. The hardier, higher calorie potato reduced starvation in Eastern Europe and improved Russia’s workforce. Meanwhile, in Western Europe, the potato was a major factor in the burgeoning Industrial Revolution. Due to its hardiness, low cost and high calorie content, the potato allowed for longer work hours for factory workers.
- In the mid-1800s, Ireland faced a massive potato shortage, which left more than a third of the Irish population without their primary food source. Millions of desperate Irish fled Ireland, arriving in the US and Canada. By 1850, Irish immigrants made up more than 25% of the populations of Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
TMIB Principal Dave Nelson’s favorite potato product is the tater-tot. What is yours?