Origins of the humble potato

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Peruse through any restaurant menu and you’re sure to find various forms of potatoes. Have you ever wondered about the origin of this popular staple?

Cultivation of potatoes is thought to have started around 2000 years ago in Peru and Bolivia, gradually spreading throughout South America. When they were first brought to Europe, many shunned them as it was widely believed that potatoes caused various diseases. In 1748, the French Parliament even banned cultivation of potatoes as they were convinced potatoes caused leprosy. Eventually in 1772, the Paris Faculty of Medicine proclaimed that potatoes were edible for humans.

Today, we enjoy potatoes in various forms; fried, baked, roasted, boiled and even stewed. Amazingly French Fries were actually invented in Belgium and are America’s most popular food. Here are a few more fun potato facts:

• French fries, also known as chips, were first introduced to the US when president Thomas Jefferson served them in the White House (1801 & 1809)
• Ancient Incan Indians in South America measured time by judging how long it took to cook a potato.
• Britain’s Queen Elizabeth I fired her chef over potatoes. He served her the leaves rather than the tubers.
• In October 1995, the potato became the first plant to be grown in space.
• In the late 17th Century, Germany’s King Frederik William decided potatoes could solve the food shortage problem and ordered the peasants to plant potatoes or have their noses cut off.
• The average Australian eats 60kg of potatoes per year.
• In1778 Prussia and Austria fought a war by trying to starve each other’s army by consuming their food source, mostly potatoes. The war became known as the Potato War.
• One medium potato contains 45 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C. They also contain potassium, B6, fiber and other vitamins and minerals.
• The largest potato grown weighed 8.3 kgs, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It was grown in England in 1795.

Serve up your thoughts below and let’s make a meal of it.