The potato was designated the official state vegetable of Idaho in 2002. Idaho's rich volcanic soil, water from melting snow in nearby mountains, clean air, sunny days and cool nights combine to produce consistently high-quality potatoes that have made Idaho famous worldwide. Americans love potatoes; consuming about 140 pounds of potatoes each per year in fresh and processed forms.
Potatoes are extremely versatile in cooking and are served in many forms including mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, boiled or steamed potatoes, French-fried potatoes, potato chips, scalloped potatoes, fried potatoes, home fries, hash browns, potato pancakes, and potato bread.
Potato Facts and History
The potato is a native American plant, originating in what is now southern Peru (about 3,000 varieties persist in the Andes of South America and there are about 5,000 potato varieties world wide). The English word "potato" comes from Spanish "patata" (derived originally from the Nahuatl word "potatl"). The potato is now the world's most widely grown tuber crop, and the fourth largest fresh produce food crop (following rice, wheat, and corn).
The potato was introduced to Europe about 80 years after the first voyage of Columbus in 1492. Once established in Europe, potatoes became an important food staple and field crop. Lack of genetic diversity (due to the fact that very few varieties were initially introduced) left the crop vulnerable to disease, resulting in the Great Irish Famine.