The Potato (Solanum tuberosum) originated in the Andes of South America, thousands of years ago. Inca Indians in Peru were the first to cultivate them. The Peruvian Quechua language records more than 1,000 words to describe potatoes and potato varieties! The potato was believed to have medicinal qualities and was rubbed on the skin of sick patients as a remedy.However, the invading Spanish conquistadors centuries later also loved the Peruvians' potatoes. The Spaniards had been on the look-out for gold and jewels - potatoes became one of the exotic finds they excitedly brought back to Europe to impress royalty in 1536. The word ‘potato’ known in Spanish as ‘patata’ is derived from the word ‘batata’.
In France, Antoine-August Parmentier helped King Louis XIV make the potato a popular hit in the 18th century. Having been imprisoned in Germany - where he was fed only potatoes - he knew how to create a feast of fabulous dishes all based on this one ingredient. One guest at a Parmentier Feast was legendary American statesman Benjamin Franklin. He enjoyed it so much he spread the word to the "New World." "French Fries" officially arrived in the United States of America when Thomas Jefferson served them at the White House during his presidency of 1801-1809.
The potato started being grown in London by 1597, and soon became popular in Ireland and Scotland. Popularity for the potato came during the Industrial Revolution, when demand was created for cheap, energy-rich, non-cereal foods. Potatoes went on to become the basis for many peoples' essential nutrition around the world. When a fungus destroyed the potato crop in Ireland in 1845 the death toll of the infamous Irish Potato Famine was immense.
Five Fun Facts:
- The first time potatoes became popular in Europe was after Marie Antoinette wore potato blossoms.
- The potato has actually been grown in space. Potato plants were taken on board the space shuttle Columbia in 1995.
- The world’s largest potato weighed in at 18 pounds, 4 ounces according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
- The potato is actually about 80 percent water.
- The average American eats just under 140 pounds of potatoes every year.
Five Potatoriffic Recipes:
- Potato and Goat Cheese Triangles- Puff pastry gets a savory addition of potatoes and goat cheese that are perfectly seasoned with fresh lemon zest for a beautiful light appetizer that will both impress and satisfy.
- Microwave Potato Chips -Did you know that you can make potato chips without a deep fryer? Try these with the kids, they will never know that there a lot less fat.
- Celery Root, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes- I love the flavor of celery root (celeriac). The intense celery flavor and "mashed potatoey" consistency pairs well with the potatoes and roasted garlic. I insist that you use homemade aioli to fluff your potatoes. Jarred mayonnaise is not a substitute in this case and will not yield great results. The homemade aioli is fluffier, tastes better and simply makes a better mash.
- Creamy Smashed Potatoes with Chives- Chunkier and more rustic than your standard mash, these spuds are enhanced by the color and flavor of fresh chives.
- Spicy Chipotle Roasted Potatoes - Roasted potatoes get a spicy, smoky flavor when tossed with ground chipotle peppers. If you like potato skins, just scrub the potatoes and leave the skins on—they add fiber and great texture.
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Nutritional information for a medium baked white potato:
Fat: 0.2 g
Carbohydrates: 29 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 10 mg
Protein: 3 g
Sugars: 2 g