Thursday, August 18, 2011

Today is National Potato Day

Can there be a more perfect food?  The potato is so versatile.  It can be baked, boiled, fried, and micro waved, grilled, mashed, shredded, roasted and steamed.  It can be a whole meal, or a dessert.   You can eat them for breakfast, lunch or supper.

There are over 4000 varieties of potatoes.  In general, varieties are categorized into a few main groups, such as russets, reds, whites, yellows (also called Yukons) and purples—based on common characteristics. 

The potato originated in Peru, over 10,000 years ago.  The Spanish introduced the potato to Europe in the second half of the 16th century.   They were a bit leary of the potato,  but soon enough it became an important food staple and field crop that played a major role in the European 19th century population boom.  However, lack of genetic diversity, due to the very limited number of varieties initially introduced, left the crop vulnerable to disease. In 1845, a plant disease known as late blight, that led to crop failures and cause the Great Irish Famine.
China is now the world's largest potato-producing country, and nearly a third of the world's potatoes are harvested in China, Russia,  India and the United States.

Potatoes are also used to make Vodka and food for domestic animals.  Potato starch is used  in the food industry as, for example, thickeners and binders of soups and sauces, in the textile industry, as adhesives, and for the manufacturing of papers and boards.  Research is being done to also use it in the production of plastic.
Potatoes can be served in many different recipes.  A baked potato with butter and sour cream is very popular, one restaurant used to  fill them with broccoli or chili and cheese too.  French fries and potato chips are a great snack.  Hash browns, or breakfast potatoes are a great way to start the day, and scalloped or augrautin make a great dish for dinner.  Potato salad makes a great accompaniment at a picnic, and sweet potato pie is a wonderful dessert, tastes like pumpkin pie.

Potatoes are full of vitamins and minerals, but are best known for their carbohydrate content.  I love potatoes, and usually have some type of potato every day.  My mother loves sweet potatoes and used to tell us when she was going to school, to keep her hands warm, she would put hot sweet potatoes in her pockets on her way to school, and then eat them for lunch.

With all the different ways to prepare the potato, Im sure you can find some way to participate in National Potato Day.  Just remember, it is spelled POTATO, no E at the end as Vice President Dan Quale stated at a spelling bee in 1992!

Did you know that, Mr. Potato Head was invented in 1949 and marketed and sold commercially by Hasbro in 1952.  Mr. Potato Head is an American toy that consists of a plastic potato and attachable plastic parts such as ears and eyes to make a face. It was the first toy ever advertised on television, and has become popular once again thanks to the movie Toy Story.

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