From Ireland to India and Mexico to Malaysia, potatoes are an essential part of cuisine around the world. They are versatile, nutritious, and grown in more than 4000 varieties. But did you know that there’s more to these humble tubers than meets the eye?
This blog post introduces 28 awesome facts about potatoes that will amaze and delight kids and adults alike. From where they come from to how many different types there are, you’ll be a potato expert in no time.
So let’s jump right in and get discovering!
1. Potatoes are tubers, not vegetables!
Potatoes are the single most common item in almost every kitchen worldwide and are part of the staple diet in most countries. However, most people still don’t know what they are.
Contrary to popular belief, potatoes aren’t truly vegetables or even root vegetables. However, they are still called so as they come from a plant and are grown for their edible root, which botanically makes them vegetables.
Potatoes fall into a different category altogether, called tubers. Tubers are swollen, irregularly shaped plant parts or organs that store energy for the plant.
2. The term “potato” has Spanish origins
Did you know that the English term Potato that we so commonly use for these tubers has been derived from their Spanish name: patata? What’s even more fascinating is that they’re still called patata in many parts of Spain.
3. Not all potatoes are yellow!
Since potatoes are an important part of most of our meals, it’s understandable if you might get bored looking at the same yellow potatoes daily.
Well, don’t worry because we’ve got the best solution for you! The next time you go to the vegetable market, remember to look for purple or red potatoes.
Not only will they be a refreshing change, but these potatoes are also loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, which are great for your immune health.
4. Potatoes were domesticated around 8,000 years ago
Potatoes were domesticated around 8,000 years ago in the South American Andes by a powerful tribe called the Inca Indians. However, they were only brought into Europe in the mid-1500s, after which these vegetables spread throughout the world.
5. Under ideal conditions, potatoes can even last up to 1 year!
Would you ever have thought any vegetable could have a shelf life of over a year? Well, potatoes can. But the effort that goes into making these veggies last that long is something you’re unlikely to want to do at home.
For potatoes to live that long, they need to be stored at 39° F. But it’s not as simple as it sounds. First, you’ll need to dry them properly to eliminate any risk of rotting. Then, the temperature of their storage is gradually decreased over time.
And when it’s time to get them out, you need to gradually bring their temperature back to room temperature.
We understand that it’s a lot of hassle for your home, but for large-scale commercial producers of these veggies with both planning and machinery in place, it’s nothing.
6. Potatoes are native to Peru and Bolivia
Potatoes are native to the Andean region of South America, which includes Peru and Bolivia. They were first domesticated by the indigenous people of the region, and have been a staple food in the area for thousands of years. Potatoes were introduced to Europe in the 16th century, and have since become a staple food in many parts of the world.
7. There are more than 4,000 varieties of potatoes
How many types of potatoes can you name off the top of your head? Well, let’s see, there are Russet Potatoes, Fingerling Potatoes, the potatoes they make those fries with, and that’s about it, right? Not really.
You’d be surprised to learn that besides the famous varieties, there are about 4,000 varieties of potatoes overall! About 80 of these are available in the United Kingdom, and over 200 types are found in the United States.
8. Sweet potatoes aren’t real potatoes
Sweet potatoes are often mistaken for potatoes, which is an understandable slip-up, considering their names.
However, that doesn’t mean it is true. Sweet potatoes are scientifically categorized as root vegetables and are called tuberous roots.
This might make you think that potatoes and sweet potatoes are similar, but the only physical similarity between the two plants is that they grow underground. They’re entirely different in terms of density, taste, and nutrition.
9. Potatoes are the third-most important food crop in the world!
We all know potatoes are commonly consumed around the globe, but what is the extent of their consumption?
Potatoes are the third-most important food crop, after rice and wheat. More than a billion people eat potatoes around the world, and the worldwide production of this vegetable exceeds 300 million metric tons!
10. China is the largest potato-producing country in the world
Although China isn’t even close to where potatoes originated, it didn’t stop the country from producing the most potatoes worldwide! China contributes to about 22% of the global potato production on average; in 2019, about 94 million metric tons of potatoes were grown in China!
This is due to the large amount of arable land and the favorable climate conditions in the country. In addition, the Chinese government has invested heavily in the potato industry, resulting in higher production levels.
11. Idaho is the largest potato-producing state in the United States
In the United States, Idaho has left Maine behind in potato production, with more than 5 million metric tons of potatoes grown yearly. This also means that Idaho provides about one-third of the United States’ total potato production. For these reasons, the state has aptly been named the Potato State.
12. There’s a Potato Museum in the Potato State!
We just learned that Idaho is the Potato State of the United States. So, if you had to guess where would the Potato Museum be located in the country, what would be your first guess? You’ve got it right; it’s in Idaho!
The Idaho Potato Museum was established in the city of Blackfoot in 1913 and displays various potato souvenirs, of which the most significant one is the largest potato crisp in the world! It was donated to the museum by Pringles.
13. Potatoes are grown on every continent except Antarctica and the Arctic circle!
Did you know that potatoes are grown everywhere except Antarctica and the Arctic circle? It’s true! In fact, they’re grown in every country on each continent except those places!
This means that potatoes can be grown in a wide range of climates, from cold to hot. They are a versatile and hardy crop that can be grown in many different types of soil.
14. Potatoes don’t make you fat
Potatoes are mostly associated with weight gain and snacking and are, therefore, considered unhealthy. But the reputation given to this vegetable is harsh and misinformed. In fact, potatoes literally contain 0 grams of fat!
The paranoia around weight gain from potatoes stems from its carbohydrate and caloric content, which is admittedly high. One medium-sized potato contains 265 calories and 61 grams of carbs.
However, these are also healthy nutrients that are important for our bodies. To get potatoes into your diet the healthy way, try baking, roasting, and boiling your potatoes instead of frying them. As long as you lead a moderately active life and don’t overeat potatoes, you’ll be in good shape.
15. Potatoes have more Potassium than bananas!
You might’ve heard people saying bananas are rich in potassium, an electrolyte. Gym-goers and athletes eat a lot of bananas (among other things), as electrolytes energize their minds and bodies instantly.
Well, a medium-sized potato contains 620 milligrams of potassium, which is more than a banana! Potatoes are also packed with antioxidants and Vitamins B6 and C, but you need to eat the skin for maximum nutrition retention.
16. Potatoes have various cooking applications
There are hundreds of ways to prepare potatoes, from street style to gourmet. These veggies are used in curries, dips, dumplings, soups, salads, and pancakes, to name a few of their common uses. They’re particularly beloved in their fried form as fries and in tacos, burgers, and sandwiches.
And who can forget our favorite chips? They come in various flavors that explode on your tongue and always leave you wanting more. Potato starch is a common ingredient as a thickener in sauces and stews and as a binding agent in cake mixes, doughs, and ice creams.
17. All the green parts of a potato plant are toxic
If you’ve ever seen the green buds on a potato, you might have thought how intriguing they look. But besides their looks, nothing is intriguing about these little tubers. Those buds and all other green parts of a potato plant are poisonous.
The green pigment contains a toxic ingredient called solanine, which can even be toxic to your health in even small amounts. So, if you see a potato slightly greenish under the skin, do not consume it.
18. Potato chips are America’s second-favorite snack!
According to a survey conducted in 2021, potato chips are America’s second favorite snack at 58% of the votes, while cookies take first place at 59%.
However, that doesn’t mean that they’re good for our health. Even though they’re delicious, potato chips are generally fried and processed. Too many of these can be unhealthy for you in more ways than one.
19. Potatoes and tobacco are relatives!
Could you have thought that potatoes, a staple food in the majority of the world, could ever be related to tobacco, a plant that is the major ingredient in cigarettes? Well, the truth is, both of them belong to the Nightshade family and, therefore are relatives.
However, there’s no reason for you to worry because the Nightshade family is quite diverse and contains many other vegetables you commonly eat, including tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers.
20. Potatoes are the first food to be grown in space!
If you’ve seen the movie Interstellar, you know how long space flights can be. Growing food aboard space stations has been one of NASA’s interests for years since it’s one of the essential sustainability requirements for astronauts in space.
In 1995, the astronauts in the Microgravity Astroculture Laboratory on the Space Shuttle Columbia grew five small potatoes while in orbit!
21. Potatoes are also used to make vodka!
Alcoholic drinks are made from the fermented yeasts in sugar, fruits, and vegetables! Fermentation is also the reason why they’re so high in calories. Vodka is a clear spirit that is typically made from grain or potatoes. While most vodkas are made from grain, some are made from potatoes. Potato vodka is said to have a smoother flavor than grain vodka.
22. The heaviest potato ever grown weighed over 10 pounds!
How heavy do you think a potato can be? According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the record is currently at 10 pounds 14 ounces (4.98 kilograms). This potato was grown by Peter Glazebrook and was weighed at a National Gardening Show in the United Kingdom in 2011.
23. Potato flowers were brought into fashion by the last French Queen
Many of you might already know who Marie Antoinette was; she was the last queen of France who ruled the country between 1774 and 1792, right before the French Revolution.
While most of us know her from her famous remark of “Let them eat Cake!” there’s another thing that the last queen had popularized back in her time. She had once received a bouquet of potato flowers and came to like them so much that she’d make public appearances in outfits decorated by them.
Inspired by her fashion, her subjects also started following the potato flower fashion trend, which probably lasted until the French Revolution broke out.
24. During the Klondike Gold Rush, potatoes were traded for gold!
We agree that potatoes are superfoods, but would you ever trade gold for them? No one in their right mind would, right? Well, the answer to this question could be subjective.
Surely someone who can easily buy these veggies at a local store nearby for less than a dollar would call such a thing hilarious. But if you could ask the freezing miners from the Klondike Gold Rush (1896-99) what was more valuable to them, they’d pick potatoes without a second thought.
These miners were already far from home, struggling in the mines, and were threatened by the risk of Scurvy. Under such circumstances, only potatoes, with their high Vitamin C content, could save their lives, not gold. They were, thus, happy to trade one for the other.
25. Potatoes are responsible for the Great Famine of Ireland!
The Great Famine, also called The Great Hunger and The Irish Potato Famine (1845-1849), was a period of widespread disease and starvation. Approximately a million people died, and another million fled the country, which led to a 20-25% fall in Ireland’s population.
The main reason behind this famine was a disease called potato blight, which destroyed the crops, resulting in mass starvation.
When potatoes were initially introduced in Ireland, the people didn’t exactly welcomed these veggies into their diet. But as the food demands in London grew, they resigned to these crops as they were quick to grow and took up comparatively less farming space.
26. Potatoes don’t float in regular water, but they do float in salt or sugar water
Have you ever wondered whether or not potatoes can float in water? First, let us tell you what floating on water is all about: density. If the density of an object is lesser than the density of water, it floats. On the other hand, if the object has a higher density than water, it’ll sink to the bottom.
Since potatoes have a higher density than regular water, they’ll definitely sink when put in a water-filled tub. But when you mix salt or sugar in water, its density increases, which means a potato will float in salt water!
27. Two National Potato Days are celebrated annually in the United States!
You might’ve heard nutritious fruits and vegetables getting their own days of celebration and recognition. However, potatoes are not like the rest: two National Potato Days are celebrated every year in the United States!
On August 19th and October 27th of every year, potato farmers and enthusiasts come together from around the world on online forums to celebrate this vegetable.
28. The year 2008 is considered as the International Year of the Potato!
Besides having two days for themselves, potatoes also have the year 2008 to themselves as a way of celebrating their utility!
According to the United Nations (which declared the International Year of the Potato), potatoes are a staple food loved by all and have played a vital role in the rise of the West. Potatoes have also helped in eradicating hunger around the world through their comparatively quick, non-fussy growth and nutritional value.