National Potato Day: 10 things to know about the humble spud
A favourite accessory of Marie Antoinette, the miracle cure of the Incas and omitted from the bible… Here are 10 things you didn’t know about the potato.
It’s no secret that the Irish are big supporters of the spud with each of us gobbling more than double the worldwide average each year.
While the rest of the world is satisfied with 33kg of potatoes per person per annum, studies have shown that the average Irish spud-lover consumes over 85kg throughout the course of just one year.
Whether you choose to scoff them baked, boiled or mashed, there are some things you might not know about Ireland’s most beloved vegetable.
Potatoes are the most universally grown vegetable throughout the world. While China produces the most potatoes of any country on Earth, Ireland’s output isn’t too shabby either. In 2013, Irish potato growers dished out a whopping 382,000 tonnes of spuds to the nation and beyond.
The miracle cure
Potatoes were cultivated as far back as 200BC and the Incas clearly also liked their carbs. Growing them on the mountainous terrain of the Andes, the Incas had faith in potatoes being the cure for all ailments and injuries and swore that they made childbirth easier. Studies have not proven whether the Incas’ spud in the delivery room theory has any known effect.
Houston, it’s time for mash
The potato is actually more travelled that the average human. In 1996, potato seeds were taken aboard the space shuttle Columbia and the vegetable proved to be the first to successfully grow in outer space.
While Ireland’s potato consumption is high, the vegetable hasn’t creeped into our accessory cupboard just yet. However, both Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette often flaunted potato blossoms on their lapels as a fashion statement. Believed to help increase the vegetable’s popularity in France at the time, their royal effort was probably noted.
Packed with Vitamin C, Potatoes were often loaded onto ships set for long explorations. In an effort to curb scurvy and other illnesses at sea, potatoes were brought along for the journey because of their longer-than-average shelf life.
Too big to gob
The largest potato ever cultivated was grown in the UK in 2010. The massive vegetable broke a Guinness World record, tipping the scale at 3.76kg (8lb 40z)- the same size as an average newborn.
While tucking into your chips post-pub, spare a minute to think of the history behind the crispy fried treat. Dubbed the ‘French Fry’, the rectangular shaped friend potato was first served in the USA to President Thomas Jefferson in 1801.
Making a difference
Potatoes are having an impact in the developing world. Potatoes grow quicker than many other vegetables and the crop takes up less space, allowing farmers to grow as many vegetables as possible on their land.
Love your carbs
Don’t roll your eyes at the power of a potato. The average spud contains more potassium than a banana, more vitamin C than an orange and more fibre than an apple.
The original Mr Potato Head was first developed in 1949, but only came with accessories including the toy’s trademark shoes, angry eyes, smile and moustache. The toy required you to dig the body parts into actual vegetables, which was controversial.