They contain most of the vitamins needed for sustenance and are the world’s fourth largest food crop, still not many people are aware of the amazing potatoes’ history. Here are some interesting facts:
1. The white potato originated in the Andes mountains 8,000 years ago. It was around 6,000 years ago that the Inca Indians in Peru first cultivated it.
2. The Spanish Conquistadors introduced the potato to Europe in the sixteenth century as an exotic find meant to impress royalty. After Sir Francis Drake brought it to Britain around 1586, the potato spread immediately in Ireland. It took, however, nearly four decades to spread to the rest of Europe being demonized and ridiculed over this period.
3. In the 1840s a major potato disease commonly known as potato blight swept through Europe, wiping out the potato crop in many countries. However, the most affected were the Irish as one third of the population was solely reliant on this cheap crop. The period is known as the Great Famine in Ireland or the Irish Potato Famine and resulted in approximately 1 million people dead and a million more emigrating from Ireland.
4. The potato chips were invented by accident in 1853 at a fashionable restaurant in Saratoga Springs, USA. While dinning here, railroad magnate Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt sent his serving of potatoes back to the kitchen complaining that they were cut too thick. Annoyed by the request, the chef George Crum sarcastically sliced them incredibly thin, fried them in hot oil, salted and served them. Amazingly, the haughty customer loved them and potato chips have been popular ever since.
5. During the Alaskan Klondike gold rush, (1897-1898) potatoes were so valued for their vitamin C that miners traded gold for potatoes.
6. In 1995 potatoes became the first food to grow in space when seeds were germinated on the space shuttle Columbia.
Sources: lovepotatoes.co.uk, potatogoodness.com