12 Fun Facts about Potatoes

By Sarah Hunt, AZFB Communications Intern

Potatoes are a common staple around the world, the United States, and even Arizona. We make them roasted, baked, mashed, and fried. They are a part of more American meals than we think. Dave DeWalt, the State Statistician for the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, gives us the statistics on the potato crop here in Arizona.

“Arizona was taken out of the potato annual estimating program after the 2015 season. Arizona had been in the program every year since 1899. So, the latest Arizona potato statistics we have are from the 2017 Census of Ag with 3,401 acres harvested. No production nor values are established in Census of Ag.

Arizona had been in the 3,400 – 4,300 acre range since 2005 and the production was valued in the $10 – $16M range from 2005 – 2010. Arizona was unable to publish value of production after the 2010 season due to disclosure rules.  Arizona highest acreage for potatoes was in 1969 at 12,800 acres. The highest valued production was in 2001 at $34M from 8,200 acres.”

Arizona has several places rich with the history of growing potatoes. One place is the Frito-Lays potato chip factory in Casa Grande. It opened for business in 1984 and today it gives jobs to about 325 individuals. It is unique because it is one of the first environmentally friendly factories in the country. Ak-Chin Farms is just one of the potato farms surrounding the area that contributes potatoes to the factory. According to Food Processing Technology’s website, “[It] mainly produces potato, corn and tortilla chips. It turns about 500,000 potatoes into potato chips every day.”

The Potato Barn is another one of those places. “Located at 3545 E. Williams Field Rd. is a barn that was built in 1966 to store potatoes bound for the adjacent railroad. In 2002, it was transitioned into an iconic local home furnishings showroom,” says David McGlothlin of AZ Big Media. “Today, the Smith’s, a third-generation Arizona family, are developing adaptive-reuse plans to restore and refurbish the potato barn into The Higley Barns.”

Now that you know all about the value of Arizona’s potato crop, here are some fun facts about potatoes and their nutrition.

  1. Today potatoes are grown in all 50 states of the USA and in about 125 countries throughout the world.
  2. The sweet potato belongs in the same family as morning glories while the white potato belongs to the same group as tomatoes, tobacco, chile pepper, eggplant and the petunia.
  3. The potato is about 80% water and 20% solids.
  4. An 8 ounce baked or boiled potato has only about 100 calories.
  5. The average American eats about 124 pounds of potatoes per year while Germans eat about twice as much.
  6. In 1974, an Englishman named Eric Jenkins grew 370 pounds of potatoes from one plant.
  7. Thomas Jefferson gets the credit for introducing “french fries” to America when he served them at a White House dinner.
  8. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest potato grown was 7 pounds 1 ounce by J. East (1953) and J. Busby (1982) of Great Britain.
  9. The world’s largest potato chip crisp (on exhibit at the Potato Museum) was produced by the Pringle’s Company in Jackson, TN, in 1990. It measures 23″ x 14.5″.
  10. In October 1995, the potato became the first vegetable to be grown in space. NASA and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, created the technology with the goal of feeding astronauts on long space voyages, and eventually, feeding future space colonies.
  11. Potato blossoms used to be a big hit in royal fashion. Potatoes first became fashionable when Marie Antoinette paraded through the French countryside wearing potato blossoms in her hair.
  12. The potatoes that are grown in Arizona are harvested in spring and early summer.

Looking for farm-fresh potatoes? Find the farms that sell them through Fill Your Plate’s Find a Farm Product searchable database!

Facts 1-11 courtesy of The Idaho Potato Museum.

More information about the Potato Barn can be found here.

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