A Quick and Tasty History of the Potato
Potatoes in Europe – a culinary discovery
Invading Spanish conquistadors, on the lookout for gold and jewels, discovered the Peruvian’s potatoes and took them back to Europe to impress royalty in 1536.
Potato popularity spreads through various food recipes
In France in the 18th Century, King Louis XIV helped Antoine-August Parmentier create a magnificent banquet with his cookery skills for, among others, legendary American statesman Benjamin Franklin. He enjoyed the potatoes so much he spread the word to the “New World”. The recipe for “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.
Potatoes in the UK & Ireland
The potato started being grown in London by 1597, and soon became popular in Ireland and Scotland especially during the Industrial Revolution, when demand for cheap, energy-rich foods was high. Potatoes went on to become the basis for many people’s healthy meals 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.
A surprising culinary invention, Crisps!
People began to experiment with potato recipes, in some cases by accident. In 1853 railway giant Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt sent his potatoes back for being too thick at a swanky restaurant in Saratoga Springs, USA. The enraged chef, George Crum, sarcastically sliced them thinly, fried them in hot oil and threw salt all over them before sending them back. To everyone’s amazement Vanderbilt loved his dish and so crisps were born – Mr. Crum coming up with one of the most popular and simple recipes for potatoes ever.
Potatoes in space
Potatoes continued to make history when in October 1995 the potato became the first vegetable to be grown in space. NASA called upon the super nutritious spud to help astronauts eat healthy meals on long space voyages. Eventually they hope to feed future space colonies with a supercharged version of the potato the Peruvian Incas first worshipped!
Potatoes popular worldwide for their versatility in cookery Potatoes are not only used in traditional British and European cookery, but eaten around the world in various food recipes. China is now the biggest potato producer with almost a third of all potatoes harvested in China and India alone. When added together Asia and Europe account for more than 80 percent of world production. Asia also consumes almost half of the world’s potatoes, but its huge population means that consumption per person is low compared with the heartiest potato eaters of all, Europeans. In Britain we consume 94kg of potatoes per person per year.
Potatoes keeping the world fed with healthy food
The potato plays a strong role in developing countries with its ability to provide a nutritious food as it ranks as the world’s fourth most important food crop. It is ideally suited to places where land is limited and uses less water than any other major food crop.