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History of the potato

The cultivation of potatoes is believed to date back to 500 B.C. The hardiness of potatoes rendered them the ideal crop for the mountainous regions of Peru, where fluctuating temperature, poor soil conditions, and thin air made it nearly impossible to harvest wheat or corn. Potatoes didn’t make their way into Europe until nearly 1500 A.D. Spanish conquistadors invaded South America in search of gold and silver and began carrying the potatoes back to their homeland aboard their ships. The Spanish sailor appreciated the “Tartuffos” (as they were called) for the protection they offered from scurvy (later found to be due to their significant vitamin C content).

 

Today, roots and tubers are the third largest carbohydrate food source, with potatoes representing nearly half of all root crops consumed. Potatoes are grown  in all 50 states of the U.S. and in about 125 countries throughout the world, and they continue to be valued for their durability and the fact that they are nutrient rich. Potatoes have long held the prominent position of being America’s favorite vegetable, and in 2009, 79% of Americans consumed potatoes in-home 3.4 times in the average two-week period, according to National Eating Trends©, a service of the PPD Group. In October 1995, the potato became the first vegetable to be grown in space, That collaborative project between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the University of Wisconsin, Madison was conducted with the goal of feeding astronauts on long space voyages and, perhaps, eventually feeding future colonies in space.


How to buy and store potatoes

Select the best potatoes
Look for clean, smooth, firm-textured potatoes with no cuts, bruises or discoloration.

Store properly to keep potatoes fresh
  • Store potatoes in a well-ventilated place, optimally at a temperature between 45º F and 55º F.
  • Colder temperatures (as in a refrigerator) cause a potato's starches to convert to sugar, resulting in a sweet taste and discoloration when cooked. If you refrigerate, letting the potato warm gradually to room temperature before cooking can reduce the discoloration.
  • Avoid areas that reach temperatures (beneath the sink or beside large appliances) or receive too much sunlight (on the countertop near a window).
  • Perforated plastic bags and paper bags offer the best environment for extending shelf life.
  • Keep potatoes out of the light.
  • Don't wash potatoes (or any produce for that matter) before storing. Dampness promotes early spoilage.
  • Green on the skin of a potato is the build-up of a chemical called Solanine. It is a natural reaction to the potato being exposed to too much light. Solanine producers a bitter taste and if eaten in large quantities can cause illness.
  • If there is slight greening, cut away the green portions of the potato skin before cooking and eating.
  • Sprouts are a sign that the potato is trying to grow. Storing potatoes in a cool, dark, dry location that is well ventilated will reduce spoiling.
  • Cut the sprouts away before cooking or eating the potato.

Raising the Nutritional Bar in Michigan Schools

When offered healthy food choices, children respond by trying new items, incorporating greater variety into their diets, and increasing their daily intake of fruits and vegetables. Bringing in new dishes and fun ways to eat vegetables will allow students enjoy the freshness of the salad bar and continue to eat healthier. There are several different ways to encourage healthy habits including setting up lunch menus on special occasions. Having a Mexican fiesta with potato bowls on Cinco de Mayo or having a Thanksgiving feast with mashed potatoes with the salad bar; there are endless opportunities.


Michigan Potato Industry Commission and the Potatoes USA want to help with this task and get fresh vegetables into the school lunch room. A Texas A&M University school-lunch plate-waste study last year indicated that students consume fruit more than vegetables except when potato products are served as the vegetable, and then “just about every student chooses the vegetable”.


We are currently working to place 150 salad bars in Michigan schools, providing school children with access to a whole variety of fresh and healthy food choices. If you would like to join us in achieving this goal, please download, and utilize the information below to place a salad bar.