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Potato Trivia
12/1/2002

Boiled, mashed, fried, grilled or roasted, Yukon Gold or Chieftain Red, Russet, Kenebec or Sebago. Endless in variety and uses, potatoes have earned their sacred spot in the history, hearts and homes of Canadians coast-to-coast.

While no one knows its exact origin, a form of potato was believed to have been cultivated as far back as 500 B.C. It arrived in North America, via Bermuda, as early as the 1620's and has played a vital role in our agriculture profile ever since. Both Prince Edward Island and Washington, D.C. have potato museums, honouring the tireless tuber and there's even an International Potato Centre - a multi-national, non-profit scientific research facility - in Luma, Peru.

A common misconception about potatoes is that they're a pound-packin', fattening food. In actual fact, a medium potato cooked with its skin (baked or boiled) contains a mere 90 calories, about the same as an apple or pear. Nutritionally, it's a tuberous treasure with the following percentages of a recommended daily nutrient intake: Vitamin C, 30%; Iron, 8 to 10%; Thiamin (B1), 10%; Riboflavin (B2), 3%; Niacin, 11%; Protein, 3%; Calcium, 3%.

Think you know everything there is to know about the tasty 'tater? We hope the following provides some surprises…and some fun. (source: One Potato, Two Potato by Jane Reeves, Ragweed press, 1987.)

• United States President Thomas Jefferson is credited with first introducing French fries to the White House in 1851.

• To date, the largest potato grown in Britain weighed in at 7 pounds, 1 ounce. The year was 1963.

• Nutritionists claim that the typical per person daily diet of nineteenth century Ireland - five pounds of potatoes and one quart of milk - provided all the essential nutrients.

• The first toy ever advertised on North American television was, in fact, Mr. Potato Head.

• Infamous gangster John Dillinger supposedly escaped from prison thanks to a pistol he carved from a potato and dyed with iodine.

• Worldwide, potatoes occupy approximately 50 billion acres of land. Potatoes have been grown on Ellesmere Island, north of the Arctic Circle.

• The Dutch potato industry is now more valuable than its tulip trade. In England, potatoes were once thought to "increase seed and produce lust".

• There's an old Irish advising "Be eating one potato, peeling a second, have a third in your fist and your eye on a fourth."

• The term "boycott" comes from an 1873 uprising when British Captain Boycott's tenants refused to dig potatoes and other crops for him.

• Almost any part of the potato can produce more potatoes - from seed pieces to true potato seeds or plant cuttings.

• Inca Indians measured time by how long it took for potatoes to cook.

• Throughout the ages, potatoes have been thought to cure a variety of ailments, including gout, lumbago, sunburn, rickets, warts, temper tantrums and drunkenness.

• In 1613, Sir Thomas Overbury wrote, of the potato, "The man who has not anything to boast of but his illustrious ancestors is like the potato - the only good thing belonging to him is underground."

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