Is there any better food than the potato? In the United States, the average person eats 110 pounds of potatoes each year! It is fascinating the number of ways potatoes can be prepared. They can be roasted, boiled, baked, or mashed. They can be served as hash browns, tater tots, French fries, or potato chips.
August 18th is National Potato Day! It is an unofficial holiday, so how it began is unclear, but potatoes have been around for a very long time. It is believed that the first crops were found in South America around 5000 BC and have spread all over the world. Potatoes have become a popular dish in every country because they can be used as so many side dishes and they can also be used to make bread, pancakes, soups, and even drinks!
The First Potato
The first potato patch planted in the United States was in New Hampshire in 1719. The seeds that were planted came from Ireland, so Thomas Jefferson referred to the crop as the Irish potato. Since then, potatoes have become the leading vegetable crop in the United States.
Idaho grows the most, averaging about thirteen billion pounds of potatoes each year! Washington, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Colorado also grow millions of pounds of potatoes each year. The first French fries were served at the White House when Thomas Jefferson was president.
James Heming, who was Jefferson’s slave, traveled to France so he could learn how to cook potatoes the French way. He served them to guests of the White House, and they quickly became popular.
The potato has not always been so fabulous in Ireland. By the early 1840s, about half of the Irish population was dependent on the potato for almost all of its nourishment. From 1845-1849, the potato crops in Ireland failed due to a disease that ruined the crops of potatoes.
At this time, Ireland was still under the British government, which did not do much to help the people that were starving. About one million people ended up dying of starvation and almost two million people left the country to go find food and jobs in other countries.
When Ireland finally became its own country in 1921, the population had dropped to half as many people than before the famine began. Today, potatoes are still grown in Ireland and the disease that ruined the crops back then is extinct. This has been called the Great Irish Famine and it led to a great number of Irish people moving to the United States.
If you are Irish, ask some family members if this is the reason you and your relatives live in the United States and not in Ireland. You might get a remarkable story about the struggles your relatives had to go through in order for you to be here today!
Kids in the Kitchen
Boxty is a traditional Irish dish made of potatoes.
Prep: 15 mins. Cook: 15mins. Makes six servings
1 ½ cups grated raw potatoes
1 cup flour
1 cup leftover mashed potatoes
1 Tablespoon milk
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
- Step 1: Toss the grated potatoes with flour in a large bowl. Stir in mashed potatoes until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and milk; mix into the potatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Step 2: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop in the potato mixture, forming patties about two inches in diameter. Fry on both sides until golden brown, three to four minutes per side. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Serve warm.
by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Esperanza thought she would always have a great life living on her family’s ranch in Mexico. She had fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. Tragedy forces Esperanza and her mother to flee to California and live at a farm labor camp.
Esperanza is not ready for the hard work and things get worse brought on by the Great Depression. When Mama gets sick, Esperanza must find a way to be strong and rise above the difficult circumstances otherwise her and mama will not survive. For ages 9-12. 262 pages.
A Wall in the Middle of the Book
by Jon Agee
A knight believes he is on the “safe” side of a wall that separates the book. He is not aware of the danger that is creeping up on his side. An ogre from the other side saves him, he learns that he was quick to judge what he did not know. A great lesson about not making assumptions about people and places you do not know. For ages 4-8. 48 pages.
Q: What did the computer need to run the gardening app?
A: A potato chip.
Q: What do you call a potato with right angles?
A: A square root.