Potato Fun Facts

The potato originated in the Andes of Bolivia and Peru. It was there, in 1537 that the Spanish conquistadors discovered the potato. From there it traveled to Europe, then back to the United States. Peru's Inca Indians first cultivated the potato in about 200 B.C. This vegetable had many uses to the Incas. Raw slices were placed on broken bones, carried to prevent rheumatism, and eaten with other foods to prevent indigestion. The ancient Inca Indians valued the potato not only as a food, but as a measure of time. Units of time were correlated to how long it took a potato to cook.

The world's only Potato Museum is located in Washington D.C. It contains over 2,000 potato artifacts, including antique harvesting tools, a 1893 potato flask (a mold for making ice cream potatoes), potato ties and a 1903 Parker Brothers game called "The Potato Race."

Potatoes are definitely America's favorite vegetable. Did you know that every year we consume about 140 pounds of potatoes per person? Europeans have us beat, though. They consume twice as many spuds as American potato lovers!

Potato chips -- The potato chip was invented in 1853 and has been America's number one snack food for more than 50 years. In two hours, a factory can make 7,000 pounds of potato chips. Throughout the years, potato chips have been packaged in cans, paper bags, cellophane, plastic, aluminum foil and cardboard tubes. The first potato chip queen was crowned in 1946, and she had a court of five members.

Potato Picking: The greatest number of U.S. barrels picked in a 9 and ½ hour day is 235 by Walter Sirois (B. 1917) of Caribou, Maine on 9/30/50.

Potato Peeling: The greatest amount of potatoes peeled by five people to an institutional cookery standard with standard kitchen knives in 45 minutes is 266.5 kg or 587 lbs, 8 oz. By J. Mills, M. McDonald, P. Jennings, E. Dardiner and V. McNulty at Bourke Street Hall, Melbourne, Vic, Australia on March 17, 1981.

The fastest potato eating on record: 3 lbs. Of potatoes consumed in 1 minute 22 seconds by Peter Dowdeswell of England in 1978.

During the 18th century, potatoes were served as a dessert, hot and salted, in a napkin.

While ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin attended a banquet where the fare was nothing but potatoes, prepared in 20 different ways. Thomas Jefferson gets the credit for introducing French fries to America when he served them at a White House dinner.

The Irish are perhaps best known for their love of potatoes. At one time Ireland was so dependent upon potatoes that when the potato crops were destroyed by blight in 1845 and 1846, over one million people died and another million left Ireland to find food.

According to legend, General Washington's cook kept the troops satisfied during the cold winter at Valley Forge with a hearty soup, Philadelphia Pepper Pot. The ingredients: tripe fatback, pepper and of course, potatoes.

In the late 17th century, Germany's King Federik William decided potatoes could solve a current food shortage problem, so he ordered the peasants to plant potatoes or have their noses cut off!

Britain's Queen Elizabeth I had a chef who lost his job over potatoes. He mistakenly served the leaves rather than the tubers.

Sir Walter Raleigh was given 40,000 acres of land in Ireland by Queen Elizabeth to grow potatoes and tobacco. That's how the Irish were introduced to potatoes, who then made them so famous that, even today, potatoes are often referred to as Irish potatoes.

Potatoes first became fashionable when Marie Antoinette paraded through the French countryside wearing potato blossoms in her hair. They soon became the rage in Parisian court circles. Louis XVI of France wore potato flowers in his buttonhole to encourage the growing of potatoes.

In Germany, there is a monument to the potato with the inscription "To God and Francis Drake, who brought to Europe for the everlasting benefit of the poor – the Potato."

Folklore abounds about the potato. A peeled potato in the pocket was assumed to cure a toothache and a dried potato worn around the neck would help rheumatism.

Vincent Van Gogh painted four still-life canvases devoted entirely to the potato.

Gold Rush miners prized the potato, high in vitamin C, because it prevented scurvy. Men traded gold for the precious potato, ounce for ounce. At today's average gold price, a medium potato would cost a fortune.

Origins of the word "spud" can be traced to the instrument used to dig potatoes from the ground. . . the SPADE!

Potatoes are the world's 4th food staple . . .after wheat, corn and rice.

The Mr. Potato Head doll was born in 1952 and was introduced to Mrs. Potato Head in 1953. According to Playskool, Inc., the two honeymooned in Boise, Idaho and have 12 children. In 1987, Mr. Potato Head gave up his pipe to set a good example for children. For more great Mr. Potato Head facts, go to mrpotatohead.net.

It takes 10,000 pounds of potatoes to make 3,500 pounds of potato chips.

The average person eats the equivalent of 96 one-ounce bags of potato chips each year. That's 6 pounds a year. In 1990, Americans ate 1.5 billion pounds of potato chips. The average potato chip is between .04 and .08 of an inch thick.

In 1952, a chipper tossed several bags of potato chips over Niagara Falls. The bags were recovered unharmed and promptly eaten by spectators.

People in Shakespeare's time viewed the potato as an aphrodisiac and labeled them "Apples of Love."

In parts of Europe and America it was thought that warts could be cured by rubbing them with a raw potato.

Before the great potato famine, Irish families ate an average of ten pounds of potatoes per day. During the famine, over a million people in Ireland either starved to death or died of diseases among those weakened by lack of food.

The potato is known to produce more food per unit area of land planted than any other major-planted crop.

Today, the potato is grown throughout the world. North Dakota produces over 2.7 billion pounds of potatoes annually, while Minnesota is not far behind at 2.3 billion pounds! The states of Idaho and Washington produce nearly half of the U.S. potato crop. The Red River Valley area of North Dakota and Minnesota is generally considered the third largest potato growing region in the U.S.