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Potatoes

Of all the plants in Robbins Farm Garden, potatoes top the list as the most grown and eaten around the world. Because of its nutritional value and its widespread use, the potato has been crowned by many as the single most important vegetable in the world.

In the United States, each of us eats, on average, over 2 pounds of potatoes every week! With their mild, starchy taste, potatoes are one of the most versatile of all vegetables. We eat them baked. We eat them boiled and mashed. We eat potato salad. For breakfast, we eat pan-fried potatoes along with eggs and bacon. We eat potato chips. And, last but certainly not least, we eat french fries.

French fries are, by the way, indeed French. That's not just a name. Thomas Jefferson discovered them visiting France as a U.S. minister, before he became our third president. Later, in the 1802 — that's over 200 years ago! — he introduced us to french fries at a White House dinner.

Origins

Many people believe that potatoes come originally from Ireland. That's not surprising, since some people explicitly call them Irish potatoes, drdawing a distinction from sweet potatoes, an entirely different vegetable.

Potatoes do indeed have strong links to Ireland, which we'll talk about in a moment. But potatoes did not get their start in Ireland. They come from South America. The plant's name even comes from South America. The English word potato comes from the South American word patata.

Potatoes got their start on the highlands of the Andes Mountains, in Peru, on the western coast of South America. Today, thousands of different varieties still survive in the wild in this area. Hundreds of these are still sold in Peruvian markets, in a broad range of colors, including red, yellow, tan, white, purple, blue, brown, and even black.

Over time, potatoes spread northward to Ecuador, eastward to Bolivia, and southward to Chile. Almost all of the potatoes grown around the world today come from a variation that eventually emerged in south-central Chile.

 

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