Potato: Annual Starchy Edible Tuber (Explained)

Potato, (Solanum tuberosum), an annual plant in the nightshade family (Solanaceae), is grown for its starchy edible tubers. The potato is native to the Peruvian-Bolivian Andes and is one of the world’s main food crops. Potatoes are edible tubers, available worldwide and all year long. They are relatively cheap to grow, rich in nutrients, and they can make a delicious treat.

Potatoes are frequently served whole or mashed as a cooked vegetable and are also ground into potato flour, used in baking, and as a thickener for sauces. The tubers are highly digestible and supply vitamin C, protein, thiamin, and niacin.

Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Division: Magnoliophyta
  • Class: Magnoliopsida
  • Subclass: Asteridae
  • Order: Solanales
  • Family: Solanaceae
  • Genus: Solanum
  • Species: S. tuberosum

Etymology

The English word potato comes from Spanish patata (the name used in Spain). The Royal Spanish Academy says the Spanish word is a hybrid of the Taíno batata (‘sweet potato’) and the Quechua papa (‘potato’). The name originally referred to the sweet potato although the two plants are not closely related.

The 16th-century English herbalist John Gerard referred to sweet potatoes as common potatoes, and used the terms bastard potatoes and Virginia potatoes for the species we now call potato. Potatoes are occasionally referred to as Irish potatoes or white potatoes in the United States, to distinguish them from sweet potatoes.

Botanical Description of Potato

The potato plant is an herbaceous perennial in that it lacks a woody stem and lives for more than two years. It grows 90 to 100 centimeters (3 to 4 feet) tall and is covered with dark green leaves. The above-ground part of the plant dies each winter and regrows in spring. It flowers three to four weeks after sprouting.

The flowers are white, pink, or purple with yellow stamens. After many years of cultivation, the potato has lost much of its ability to produce seeds. Only very rarely does a flower produce a fruit. These are called seed balls and look like small green tomatoes. Each contains up to three hundred seeds, which are sometimes planted in an effort to create new potato varieties. They should not be eaten as they have poisonous substances.

Domestication and History

The earliest archaeologically verified potato tuber remains have been found at the coastal site of Ancon (central Peru), dating to 2500 BC. The most widely cultivated variety, Solanum tuberosum tuberosum, is indigenous to the Chiloé Archipelago, and has been cultivated by the local indigenous people since before the Spanish conquest.

There are over 4,000 edible varieties of potato, mostly found in the Andes of South America. Potato is the third most important food crop in the world after rice and wheat in terms of human consumption. More than a billion people worldwide eat potato, and global total crop production exceeds 300 million metric tons. Potato is a critical crop in terms of food security in the face of population growth and increased hunger rates. For example, China, the world’s biggest consumer of potatoes, expects that fully 50% of the increased food production it will need to meet demand in the next 20 years will come from potatoes.

Potatoes are thought to have been independently domesticated several times and were largely cultivated in South America by the Incas as early as 1,800 years ago. Encountered by the invading Spaniards, potatoes were introduced into Europe during the second half of the 16th century. By the end of the 17th century, the plant was a major crop in Ireland, and by the end of the 18th century, it was a major crop in continental Europe, particularly Germany, and in the west of England.

According to conservative estimates, the introduction of the potato was responsible for a quarter of the growth in the Old World population and urbanization between 1700 and 1900. In the Altiplano, potatoes provided the principal energy source for the Inca civilization, its predecessors, and its Spanish successor. Following the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, the Spanish introduced the potato to Europe in the second half of the 16th century, part of the Columbian exchange.

The staple was subsequently conveyed by European (and possibly Russian) mariners to territories and ports throughout the world, especially their colonies. The potato was slow to be adopted by European and colonial farmers, but after 1750 it became an important food staple and field crop and played a major role in the European 19th-century population boom.

However, lack of genetic diversity, due to the very limited number of varieties initially introduced, left the crop vulnerable to disease. In 1845, a plant disease known as late blight, caused by the fungus-like oomycete Phytophthora infestans, spread rapidly through the poorer communities of western Ireland as well as parts of the Scottish Highlands, resulting in the crop failures that led to the Great Irish Famine. Thousands of varieties still persist in the Andes however, where over 100 cultivars might be found in a single valley, and a dozen or more might be maintained by a single agricultural household.

Physical Description

The potato is one of some 150 tuber-bearing species of the genus Solanum (a tuber is the swollen end of an underground stem). The compound leaves are spirally arranged; each leaf is 20–30 cm (about 8–12 inches) long and consists of a terminal leaflet and two to four pairs of leaflets. The white, lavender, or purple flowers have five fused petals and yellow stamens. The fruit is a small poisonous berry with numerous seeds.

The stems extend underground into structures called stolons. The ends of the stolons may enlarge greatly to form a few to more than 20 tubers, of variable shape and size, usually ranging in weight up to 300 grams (10 ounces) but occasionally to more than 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds). The skin varies in color from brownish white to deep purple; the starchy flesh normally ranges in color from white to yellow, but it too maybe purple.

The tubers bear spirally arranged buds (eyes) in the axils of aborted leaves, of which scars remain. The buds sprout to form clones of the parent plant, allowing growers to vegetatively propagate desired characteristics. Indeed, vegetative reproduction is always used commercially, though the resulting decrease in genetic diversity has made the popular varieties more vulnerable to pests and diseases.

Botanical Description of Potato

Genetics and Genetical Engineering in Potato

There are about 5,000 potato varieties worldwide. Three thousand of them are found in the Andes alone, mainly in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and Colombia. They belong to eight or nine species, depending on the taxonomic school. Apart from the 5,000 cultivated varieties, there are about 200 wild species and subspecies, many of which can be cross-bred with cultivated varieties. Cross-breeding has been done repeatedly to transfer resistances to certain pests and diseases from the gene pool of wild species to the gene pool of cultivated potato species.

The major species grown worldwide is Solanum tuberosum (a tetraploid with 48 chromosomes), and modern varieties of this species are the most widely cultivated. There are also four diploid species (with 24 chromosomes): S. stenotomum, S. phureja, S. goniocalyx, and S. ajanhuiri. There are two triploid species (with 36 chromosomes): S. chaucha and S. juzepczukii. There is one pentaploid cultivated species (with 60 chromosomes): S. curtilobum.

There are two major subspecies of Solanum tuberosum: andigena, or Andean; and tuberosum, or Chilean. The Andean potato is adapted to the short-day conditions prevalent in the mountainous equatorial and tropical regions where it originated; the Chilean potato, however, native to the Chiloé Archipelago, is adapted to the long-day conditions prevalent in the higher latitude region of southern Chile.

The International Potato Center, based in Lima, Peru, holds 4,870 types of potato germplasm, most of which are traditional landrace cultivars. The international Potato Genome Sequencing Consortium announced in 2009 that they had achieved a draft sequence of the potato genome, containing 12 chromosomes and 860 million base pairs, making it a medium-sized plant genome.

More than 99 percent of all current varieties of potatoes currently grown are direct descendants of a subspecies that once grew in the lowlands of south-central Chile. Nonetheless, genetic testing of the wide variety of cultivars and wild species affirms that all potato subspecies derive from a single origin in the area of present-day southern Peru and extreme Northwestern Bolivia (from a species in the Solanum brevicaule complex).

Most modern potatoes grown in North America arrived through European settlement and not independently from the South American sources, although at least one wild potato species, Solanum fendleri, naturally ranges from Peru into Texas, where it is used in breeding for resistance to a nematode species that attack cultivated potatoes.

A secondary center of genetic variability of the potato is Mexico, where important wild species that have been used extensively in modern breeding are found, such as the hexaploid Solanum demissum, as a source of resistance to the devastating late blight disease. Another relative native to this region, Solanum bulbocastanum, has been used to genetically engineer the potato to resist potato blight.

Genetic research has produced several genetically modified varieties. ‘New Leaf’, owned by Monsanto Company, incorporates genes from Bacillus thuringiensis, which confers resistance to the Colorado potato beetle; ‘New Leaf Plus’ and ‘New Leaf Y’, approved by US regulatory agencies during the 1990s, also include resistance to viruses. McDonald’s, Burger King, Frito-Lay, and Procter & Gamble announced they would not use genetically modified potatoes, and Monsanto published its intent to discontinue the line in March 2001.

Waxy potato varieties produce two main kinds of potato starch, amylose, and amylopectin, the latter of which is most industrially useful. BASF developed the Amflora potato, which was modified to express antisense RNA to inactivate the gene for granule bound starch synthase, an enzyme that catalyzes the formation of amylose. Amflora potatoes, therefore, produce starch consisting almost entirely of amylopectin, and are thus more useful for the starch industry.

In 2010, the European Commission cleared the way for ‘Amflora’ to be grown in the European Union for industrial purposes only—not for food. Nevertheless, under EU rules, individual countries have the right to decide whether they will allow this potato to be grown on their territory. Commercial planting of ‘Amflora’ was expected in the Czech Republic and Germany in the spring of 2010, and Sweden and the Netherlands in subsequent years. Another GM potato variety developed by BASF is ‘Fortuna’ which was made resistant to late blight by adding two resistance genes, blb1 and blb2, which originate from the Mexican wild potato Solanum bulbocastanum.

In October 2011 BASF requested cultivation and marketing approval as a feed and food from the EFSA. In 2012, GMO development in Europe was stopped by BASF. In November 2014, the USDA approved a genetically modified potato developed by J.R. Simplot Company, which contains genetic modifications that prevent bruising and produce less acrylamide when fried than conventional potatoes; the modifications do not cause new proteins to be made, but rather prevent proteins from being made via RNA interference.

Cultivation and Harvesting

Potato is a cool-season vegetable that ranks with wheat and rice as one of the most important staple crops in the human diet around the world. Maximal tuber formation occurs at soil temperatures between 60° and 70°F. The tubers fail to form when the soil temperature reaches 80°F. Potatoes withstand light frosts in the spring and can be grown throughout most of the country in the cooler part of the growing season, but they prefer the northern tier of states for maximal yield and quality.

Planting of Potato

Potatoes are among the earliest vegetables planted in the garden. Early, midseason, and late varieties all may be planted in March or early April. Planting too early in damp, cold soils makes it more likely that seed pieces rot before they can grow. Potatoes planted in March also may be frozen back to the ground by late frosts. Plants usually recover fully, but the blackened shoots are always demoralizing to the gardener. Medium-early plantings, when soils have dried and warmed, may do as well as extremely early, winter-defying plantings. Midseason and late varieties may be planted as late as the first of July. Late potatoes are best for winter storage.

Potato Varieties

Native: Over 4,000 varieties of native potatoes grow in the Andean highlands of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Selected over centuries for their taste, texture, shape, and color, these potato varieties are very well adapted to the harsh conditions that prevail in the high Andes, at altitudes ranging from 3,500 to 4,200 meters. Farmers generally produce these native varieties with minimal or no use of agrochemicals.

Wild Type: There are between 100-180 known species of wild potato. These inedible species are the original ancestors of today’s cultivated potato. Wild species are found from the southwestern United States to southern Chile, with most species concentrated in Peru and Bolivia. They grow in diverse soils and climates, from the dry desert along the Peruvian coast, to the inter-Andean valleys, up to altitudes of 4,200 meters above sea level.

When Darwin reached Guayteca Island on the Chilean archipelago of Los Chonos, he noted an abundance of wild potato. “The tallest plant was four feet in height. The tubers were generally small, but I found one of an oval shape, two inches in diameter: they resembled in every respect, and had the same smell as English potatoes; but when boiled they shrunk much and were watery and insipid.” More than 130 years later in 1969, legendary Peruvian plant explorer Carlos Ochoa entered a cave on the same island and found the same potato described by the author of On the Origin of Species.

In honor of Ochoa’s discovery, the species was named Solanum ochoanum. Ochoa theorized that this potato had at some time been cultivated and then grew wild because it features the same chromosomes and a similar morphology as Solanum tuberosum, our modern potato. He believed that 19th-century fishermen may have transported the tuber from the mainland for their own consumption to prevent scurvy. Because S. ochoanum has adapted to soils with high salt concentrations, it could prove useful in providing genes to breeding programs for parts of the world that suffer from high soil salinity.

Seed Potato: Renewing Cycle

Unlike other major field crops, potatoes are reproduced vegetatively, from other potatoes. Therefore, a part of each year’s crop – from 5 to 15 percent, depending on the quality of the harvested tubers – is set aside for re-use in the next planting season. Most farmers in developing countries select and store their own seed tubers. In developed countries, farmers are more likely to purchase disease-free “certified seed” from dedicated suppliers.

Spacing & Depth

Potatoes are started from “seed pieces” rather than from true seeds. These seed pieces may be small whole potatoes or potatoes that are cut into 1-1/2 to 2-ounce pieces. Plant the pieces soon after cutting. Be sure that there is at least one good “eye” in each seed piece. Some garden centers and seed suppliers sell “potato eyes” that weighs less than an ounce. These may be too small for optimal production. Small, whole, certified seed potatoes are often the best choice for home gardeners.

Plant seed pieces 10 to 12 inches apart and cover in a furrow between 1 and 3 inches deep. Space rows 24 to 36 inches apart. The 24-inch spacing is often beneficial because the plants shade the soil and prevent high soil temperatures that inhibit tuber development.

Care

The soil should be fertile and well-drained. Clay soils should be improved with organic matter and plowed deeply in the fall. If space allows, a cover crop such as clover, buckwheat, or winter rye grown in the potato bed the year before potatoes are planted improves soil structure, organic-matter content, and subsequent potato production.

Mulch is usually beneficial in growing potatoes. After the potato plants have emerged, organic mulch can be applied to conserve moisture, help keep down weeds and cool the soil. Some gardeners cover rows of early potatoes with clear plastic film at planting to warm the soil and promote early growth when the soil temperature is low. When the plants emerge, remove the film to allow the plants to grow unrestricted.

After the potatoes break the surface of the ground, gradually build up a low ridge of loose soil by cultivation and hoeing toward the plants. This ridge, which may become 4 to 6 inches high by summer, reduces the number of “sunburned” (greened) tubers. The object of potato cultivation is to eliminate competition from weeds, to loosen and aerate the soil, and to ridge the row. Misshapen potatoes develop in hard, compact soil. Use extreme caution when hoeing near potato plants because developing tubers are easily cut and ruined.

Irrigate to assure uniform moisture while the tubers are developing. A uniform moisture supply also helps to cool the ground and eliminate knobs caused by secondary growth.

Harvesting

Harvest potatoes after the vines have died. Handle as gently as possible during harvest. Because the tubers develop 4 to 6 inches beneath the soil surface, a shovel or spading fork is a useful tool for digging potatoes.

Potatoes for use in early summer (“new potatoes”)may be dug before the vines die (usually in July). When the potatoes reach 1 to 2 inches in size, you may wish to dig a few hills to use for soup or to cook with creamed peas or to butter and roast.

Late potatoes are usually dug in August or early September. They keep in the garage or basement for several weeks in their natural dormancy. Store over the winter in a dark room at a temperature between 38° and 40°F with high humidity. Check periodically for spoilage. Temperatures below 38°F cause internal damage to the tubers.

Selection & Storage

Potatoes are the most popular vegetables in the United States. Although there are more than 100 known varieties, about six varieties make up the entire commercial market. Home gardeners are able to taste some of the wonderful flavors and textures unknown to the average person. Some varieties are not considered marketable because they do not ship well or are prone to disease.

Potatoes are generally classified as round red, round white, oblong white, and yellow-fleshed. New potatoes are any variety of freshly dug young potato that hasn’t been stored. Potatoes can be harvested at any stage of development from marble-size to full maturity. Potato size at maturity depends on the variety planted. Potatoes should be firm, free of soft spots, and free of disease when harvested.

Even stored under the best conditions, potatoes lose some quality the longer they are stored. For best results, store in a cool, dark place with good air circulation. Do not refrigerate potatoes. Cold temperatures convert starch to sugar, giving potatoes an uncharacteristic sweet taste. The sugar caramelizes during cooking producing brown potatoes and an off-flavor. Potatoes can be stored for a week or two at room temperature (65 to 70 degrees) with good results.

If potatoes start to sprout, they can still be eaten. Remove the sprouts and discard them. If the potato is still firm, it is good to eat. Shriveled, wrinkled, sprouting potatoes should not be eaten. Green-skin potatoes have been exposed to too much light. A mildly toxic alkaloid called solanin forms in the skin. The green skin can simply be peeled away. Although the remaining potato is safe to eat, it will not be at its best.

Potato Pests and Diseases

Increasing potato production while protecting producers, consumers, and the environment requires an integrated approach encompassing a range of strategies: encouraging natural pest predators, breeding varieties with pest/disease resistance, planting clean seed, rotating with other crops, and organic composting to improve soil quality.

Pests

  • Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) is a serious pest with strong resistance to insecticides.
  • Potato tuber moth, most commonly Phthorimaea operculella, is the most damaging pest of planted and stored potatoes in warm, dry areas.
  • Leafminer fly (Liriomyza huidobrensis) is a South American native common in areas where insecticides are used intensively.
  • Cyst nematodes (Globodera pallida and G. rostochiensis) are serious soil pests in temperate regions, the Andes, and other highland areas.

Diseases

Viruses are disseminated in tubers and can cut yields by 50 percent.

  • Late blight, the most serious potato disease worldwide, is caused by a water mould, Phytophthora infestans, that destroys leaves, stems, and tubers.
  • Bacterial wilt, caused by the bacterial pathogen, leads to severe losses in tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions.
  • Potato blackleg, a bacterial infection, causes tubers to rot in the ground and in storage.

Read More: Wheat: Highly Nutritional & Widely Cultivated Cereal (Explained)

Benefits

A high intake of fruits and vegetables can benefit health and reduce the risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions. Potatoes contain important nutrients, even when cooked, that can benefit human health in various ways.

Here we look at 10 ways in which the potato might contribute to a healthful lifestyle, including preventing osteoporosis, maintaining heart health, and reducing the risk of infection.

1) Bone health

The iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, and zinc in potatoes all help the body to build and maintain bone structure and strength. Iron and zinc play crucial roles in the production and maturation of collagen.

Phosphorus and calcium are both important in bone structure, but it is essential to balance the two minerals for proper bone mineralization. Too much phosphorus and too little calcium result in bone loss and contribute to osteoporosis.

2) Blood pressure

A low sodium intake is essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure, but increasing potassium intake may be just as important. Potassium encourages vasodilation or the widening of the blood vessels.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), fewer than 2 percent of American adults meet the daily 4,700-milligram recommendation.

Potassium, calcium, and magnesium are all present in the potato. These have been found to decrease blood pressure naturally.

3) Heart health

The potato’s fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 content, coupled with its lack of cholesterol, all support heart health.

Potatoes contain significant amounts of fiber. Fiber helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease.

Research-based on the NHANES has linkedTrusted Source a higher intake of potassium and a lower intake of sodium to a reduced risk of all-cause mortality and heart disease.

4) Inflammation

Choline is an important and versatile nutrient that is present in potatoes. It helps with muscle movement, mood, learning, and memory.

It also assists in:

  • maintaining the structure of cellular membranes
  • transmitting nerve impulses
  • the absorption of fat
  • early brain development.

One large potato contains 57 mg of choline. Adult males need 550 mg, and females 425 mg a day.

5) Cancer

Potatoes contain folate. Folate plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair, and so it prevents many types of cancer cells from forming due to mutations in the DNA.

Fiber intake from fruits and vegetables like potatoes are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer. Vitamin C and quercetin also function as antioxidants, protecting cells against damage from free radicals.

6) Digestion and regularity

The fiber content in potatoes helps prevent constipation and promotes regularity for a healthy digestive tract.

7) Weight management and satiety

Dietary fibers are commonly recognized as important factors in weight management and weight loss. They act as “bulking agents” in the digestive system. They increase satiety and reduce appetite, so a person feels fuller for longer and is less likely to consume more calories.

8) Metabolism

Potatoes are a great source of vitamin B6. This plays a vital role in energy metabolism, by breaking down carbohydrates and proteins into glucose and amino acids. These smaller compounds are more easily utilized for energy within the body.

9) Skin

Collagen is the skin’s support system. Vitamin C works as an antioxidant to help prevent damage caused by the sun, pollution, and smoke. Vitamin C also helps collagen smooth wrinkles and improve overall skin texture.

10) Immunity

Research has found that vitamin C may help reduce the severity and duration of a cold. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C.

Nutrition

How healthful a potato is in the diet depends to some extent on what is added or how it is cooked. Oil, sour cream, and butter all add calories, but the plain potato itself is relatively low in calories.

It also provides important nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, and various minerals. A 100-gram (g) or 3.5- ounce serving is a little more than half of a medium-size potato. This much white potato, baked with skin, contains:

  • 94 calories
  • 0.15 grams of fat
  • 21.08 grams of carbohydrate
  • 2.1 grams of dietary fiber
  • 2.10 grams of protein
  • 10 milligrams (mg) of calcium
  • 0.64 mg of iron
  • 27 mg of magnesium
  • 75 mg of phosphorus
  • 544 mg of potassium
  • 12.6 mg of vitamin C
  • 0.211 mg of vitamin B6
  • 38 micrograms (mcg) of folate

Potatoes also provide niacin, choline, and zinc. Different varieties provide slightly different nutrients.

Safety and Side Effects

Eating potatoes is generally healthy and safe. However, in some cases, people need to limit their consumption — or avoid them altogether.

Potato Allergy

Food allergies are a common condition, characterized by a harmful immune reaction to proteins in certain foods. Potato allergy is relatively rare, but some people may be allergic to patatin, one of the main proteins in potatoes. Those who are allergic to latex may be sensitive to patatin as well due to a phenomenon known as allergic cross-reactivity.

Potato Toxins

Plants of the nightshade family, such as potatoes, contain a class of toxic phytonutrients known as glycoalkaloids. The two main glycoalkaloids in potatoes are solanine and chaconine.

Glycoalkaloid poisoning after eating potatoes has been reported in both people and animals. However, reports of toxicity are rare and the condition may go undiagnosed in many cases. In low doses, glycoalkaloids usually cause mild symptoms, such as headache, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

In more serious cases, the symptoms include neurological disorders, rapid breathing, fast heartbeat, low blood pressure, fever, and even death.

In mice, long-term intake of glycoalkaloids may increase the risk of cancer in the brain, lungs, breasts, and thyroid. Other animal studies indicate that the low levels of glycoalkaloids likely found in the human diet may exacerbate inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Normally, potatoes contain only trace amounts of glycoalkaloids. A 154-pound (70-kg) individual would have to eat over 13 cups (2 kg) of potatoes (with the skin) in one day to get a lethal dose.

Acrylamides

Acrylamides are contaminants formed in carb-rich foods when they’re cooked at very high temperatures, such as during frying, baking, and roasting. They are found in fried, baked, or roasted potatoes, but not fresh, boiled, or steamed ones.

The amount of acrylamides increases with higher frying temperatures. Compared to other foods, french fries and potato chips are very high in acrylamides. These compounds are used as industrial chemicals, and acrylamide toxicity has been reported in people exposed to them in the workplace.

Although the amount of acrylamides in foods is generally low, long-term exposure may be harmful. Animal studies indicate that acrylamides may increase cancer risk and harm the brain and nervous system. In humans, acrylamides have been classified as a possible risk factor for cancer.

Numerous observational studies have investigated the effect of eating acrylamide-rich foods on cancer risk, and most did not detect any significant adverse effects. In contrast, a few studies have linked acrylamides with an increased risk of cancer of the breasts, ovaries, kidneys, mouth, and esophagus.

High intake of acrylamides may have adverse health effects over time, but the extent of these effects is unclear, and further studies are required. For optimal health, it seems sensible to limit your consumption of french fries and potato chips.

French Fries and Potato Chips

Potatoes have been blamed for contributing to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. The main reason for this is that potatoes are widely consumed as french fries and potato chips — high-fat foods that harbor a number of unhealthy compounds. French fries are also frequently associated with fast food.

Observational studies link the consumption of fried potatoes and potato chips to weight gain. Fried potatoes and potato chips may also contain acrylamides, glycoalkaloids, and high amounts of salt, which all may be harmful over time. For this reason, high consumption of fried potatoes — especially french fries and chips — should be avoided.

Fun Facts About Potatoes

1. The potato, from the perennial Solanum tuberosum, is the world’s fourth-largest food crop, following rice, wheat, and maize.

2. The Inca Indians in Peru were the first to cultivate potatoes around 8,000 BC to 5,000 B.C. In 1536 Spanish Conquistadors conquered Peru, discovered the flavors of the potato, and carried them to Europe.

3. Sir Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes to Ireland in 1589 on the 40,000 acres of land near Cork. It took nearly four decades for the potato to spread to the rest of Europe.

4. Eventually, agriculturalists in Europe found potatoes easier to grow and cultivate than other staple crops, such as wheat and oats. Most importantly, it became known that potatoes contained most of the vitamins needed for sustenance, and they could be provided to nearly 10 people for each acre of land cultivated.

5. Idaho, the present-day largest producer of potatoes, actually did not begin growing potatoes until 1836, when missionaries moved west in an effort to teach the native tribes to grow crops instead of relying upon hunting and gathering methods. However, it wasn’t until 1872 when the Russet Burbank variety was developed, that the Idaho potato industry began to flourish.

6. In October 1995, the potato became the first vegetable to be grown in space. NASA and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, created the technology with the goal of feeding astronauts on long space voyages, and eventually, feeding future space colonies.

Source: Medical News Today, Britannica, Potato Goodness, Health Line, Ci Potato, Extension Illinois Edu, Wikipedia, New World Encyclopedia

Read More: Maize: Multipurpose Edible Grain (Explained)
Read More: Sugarcane: Perennial Environment Friendly Grass (Explained)

Leave a Comment!