Woman holding.bags of patoates at the munger Potato Festival, Michigan
Lorri visiting the Munger Potato Festival !

By Lorri Schreiber
Believe it or not, the potato just may be the king of veggies, ranking as America’s favorite vegetable. Although there have been attempts to defame the spud by fads such as the Atkins Diet and South Beach Diet who forbid them because of their carbohydrates, potatoes continue to dominate as the preferred side dish. 

Our bodies actually need carbohydrates everyday for physical and mental performance, and potatoes are a healthy option to fuel that energy. Although some believe that starchy foods don’t contain many nutrients, potatoes are actually packed full with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, potassium (even more than bananas!) and vitamin B6 as well as iron, protein and fiber. They are fat-free, cholesterol-free and sodium-free and more energy-packed than any other popular vegetable.

Of course, the level of health has a lot to do with how you prepare them and what you add to them. Potatoes are very versatile and can be prepared in a ton of different ways. They are also a very affordable food source and come in a lot of varieties such as reds, yellows, whites, purples, petites and fingerlings. 

The first potato arrived U.S. in 1621 as a gift to to Governor Francis Wyatt of Virginia at Jamestown from the Governor of Bermuda, Nathaniel Butler. At first, potatoes weren’t popular, but they started to slowly spread through the northern colonies. 

In 1767, Benjamin Franklin returned home from France with potatoes after enjoying them at a dinner hosted by Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a French agronomist known for promoting the potato as a food source after being forced to eat them while in prison when it was considered hog food. That same year, George Washington planted potatoes at Mount Vernon. By 1772, Thomas Jefferson was serving potatoes at Monticello, but it wasn’t until 1802 when potatoes became popular after being served to guests at the White House under his presidency.

Incidentally, Jefferson asked the chef to prepare the potatoes like French “pommes de terre frites à cru, en petites tranches” translating to “raw, fried potatoes, thinly sliced.” The name French fries stuck, and that’s why our popular American fries are called French fries when they did not actually come from France. Today, over half of all potatoes in the U.S. are sold for making French fries.

Next came the highly popular potato chip. In 1853, George Crum was a chef at Moons Lake House, a New York restaurant located on the shores of Saratoga Lake in Saratoga Springs. Railroad magnate Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt was vacationing there when he ordered Moon’s Fried Potatoes, their well-known house specialty served in thick-cut slices following the French tradition. Vanderbilt kept sending them back to the kitchen complaining that they were cut too thick, so Crum cut the potatoes paper-thin, fried them in hot oil and salted them. They were a hit, and potato chips were born . Crum opened his own restaurant in 1860 and placed chips in baskets on the tables. He promoted them as Original Saratoga Chips and sold them in packages to go. Unfortunately for him, he never patented or protected his invention.

Today, potatoes are the largest vegetable crop in the United States and are grown commercially in every state. In Michigan, potatoes are the second-most grown produce commodity covering more than 45,000 acres by more than 80 growers. Michigan ranks 8th in the nation for its 1.9 billion pounds production and contributes $2.53 billion to our economy and supports more than 21,000 jobs. But when it comes to potato chips, Michigan is the leader! One out of every four bags of potato chips produced in the United States are filled with Michigan potatoes.


The earliest cultivation of potatoes is believed to be by the Inca Indians in Peru around 8,000 BC to 5,000 B.C.

The hot potato game is believed to have originated in Greece and has been played all over the world for centuries.

In 1952, the Mr. Potato Head was promoted on television as the first advertisement geared toward children rather than adults and sold like crazy.

In 1974, the biggest potato to date was 370 pounds, grown by Englishman Eric Jenkins.

In 1995, the potato became the first vegetable to be grown in space. NASA and the University of Wisconsin created the technology with the goal of feeding astronauts on long space voyages, and eventually, feeding future space colonies.

Created on Saturday, March 30, 2024