Friday, December 9, 2022

I Was Thinking . . . The Potato

Of all the vegetables, the potato is probably considered the most common. It isn’t flashy or exotic, yet it is a staple of most diets. While meat and potatoes are thought of as American as apple pie, its history may tell a different story.  

If fact, potatoes did originate in America, but not North America. The Spanish first encountered potatoes in Peru in about 1532. But they had existed there for thousands of years before that. It was the Spanish explorers that brought the lowly potato back to Europe.

At first however, it was not considered suitable for human consumption but could be used for animal feed. While it spread to Spain’s neighboring countries, it still wasn’t considered a stable food source until the 1700s. Englishman, Sir Walter Raleigh introduced the potato to Ireland in 1589.

Up to this time, the European diet was grain based. When potatoes were introduced, not only could they produce more food, but there was an alternative to depend on in case of a grain crop failure. These failures had resulted in famines and population reductions. The high nutritional level of potatoes also resulted in better health, higher birth rates, and population explosions in Europe and the U.S. and wherever potatoes flourished.  

Potatoes also have had political implications. They became a mainstay of agriculture in Ireland and when a blight nearly wiped out their food source, millions fled the emerald isle in search  of a better life. The U.S. was one of the recipients of this green migration as it  took in millions of Irish. Like many surges of immigrants, they weren’t always welcomed with open arms.

The simple potato also may have been responsible for the end of a political career as well. In 1992 Vice President Dan Quayle was visiting a school that was holding a 6th grade spelling bee. A young boy had been given the word potato to spell and wrote it on the board. 

The former Indiana Congressman and Senator, hoping to be of assistance to the sixth grader, suggested he add an “e” to the end of the word. Needless to say, this little spelling error became national news and became material for many comedians and possibly the end of Mr. Quayle’s political career.  

While potatoes often get a bad rap nutritionally speaking, they actually are quite healthy. They

are a good source of fiber and can help you lose weight because you feel full longer. Fiber can help prevent heart disease by keeping cholesterol and blood sugar levels in proper ranges. They also have antioxidants that work to prevent diseases as well as vitamins that help the body function properly. It usually isn’t the potato, but rather what people put on them or how they prepare them that may cause health concerns.  

Besides being a food source, potatoes apparently have a wide variety of other uses.  What other vegetable got turned into a toy, Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head?  

A quick Google search finds all kinds of uses for potatoes. If you have a broken light bulb in the socket, cut a potato in half and push it over the broken bulb and twist. (Turn the power off first). Cut a potato in half and carve your desired shape into it and use it as an ink stamp. (Put it in ink first). 

Put a raw potato in the bottom of a vase and stick your flowers into it to make a flower arrangement. It is said a raw potato can shine your shoes and remove rust stains. Rub it over your glasses to help prevent them from fogging up. Beauty and health tips run a gamut of possible uses for potatoes. They can help with acne, wrinkles, puffy eyes, bruises, burns, headaches, and even a toothache.  

This versatile little vegetable comes in various sizes and colors. It can be mashed, cut into fries, riced, chunked, graded, or served whole. You can bake it, fry it, boil it, roast it, and grill it. 

But maybe the best use was developed by Norwegians when they learned to turn potatoes into lefse.

Did You Ever Wonder  - Why do we cook bacon and bake cookies?

Photo:  I was thinking Ron Albright

 

Dodge County Independent

Dodge County Independent
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Kasson, MN 55944

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