Week of May 31, 2020

Notes from the Underground


Because of a potato-killing fungus, there are vastly more citizens of Irish descent in Britain and the US. The potato was a major staple in 19th century Ireland, so when crops were hit with a blight for seven years starting in 1845, up to a million Irish perished in the famine, while another million emigrated elsewhere, particularly North America and Britain.


The beloved Tater Tot began as an innovative way sell french fry scraps. Ore-Ida company founding brothers F. Nephi and Golden Griggs sought to do something more profitable with the irregular potato pieces left by the fry cutter than feed them to their own cows. After some smashing, blanching, shaping, spicing, and cooking, the Tater Tot was born and quickly became a staple of the frozen food boom of the 1950s.


The potato’s nickname of “spud” comes from a narrow spade designed to dig the potato and other rooted plants out of the ground.


Potatoes are tubers, a thickened plant structure that grows underground between the plant’s stem and roots, where they absorb and store energy and often help the plant survive the winter.


French fries are quite possibly of Belgian origin, but American soldiers in WWI called them French fries after learning of them from from French-speaking Belgians.


A potato was the first vegetable ever grown in space, with the eventual goal of feeding astronauts and future planetary colonists.


Every day, over one billion people eat at least one potato.