Potato Use: All About America's Favorite Vegetable

Potato use is always high in America. They have a storied history, and, unlike apples, Americans actually do eat one potato a day.

  • Burger and Fries
    The cheeseburger is made complete with a side order of french fries.
    iStockphoto.com/More Pixels
  • The Good Ol' Baked Potato
    Baked potatoes make a perfect base for a delicious dinner.
    iStockphoto.com/Jack Puccio

  • Burger and Fries
  • The Good Ol' Baked Potato

“You want fries with your burger?” Well, yes, actually, I do. And a baked potato with my steak, mashed potatoes with my pot roast, a bag of chips with my sandwich, and hash browns with my morning eggs. I'm highly in favor of potato use.

Mashed, hashed, baked, flaked, chipped, boiled or fried, we Americans love our spuds. More potatoes are consumed in the United States than any other vegetable, with each of us eating an average of 125 pounds of the tasty tubers each year. According to those statistic-loving folks at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that adds up to about one potato per person per day.

Potatoes, you might say, run in my family. Back during the Depression years, when the market price for field corn dropped as low as 8 cents a bushel, my grandfather decided he could make more money growing potatoes. After all, he reasoned, folks who were struggling to feed their families could still afford 18 cents for a 10-pound bag of potatoes. My granddad bought a planter, excavated a dugout potato cellar on his farm, and put my mother and her sisters to work cutting potatoes into seed pieces. Over the next few years, he sold enough potatoes to buy another farm.

Potatoes are still inexpensive to buy, easy to prepare, and can be grown in nearly any garden except mine. According to dieticians, they’re also good for you. One average-sized potato contains more potassium than a banana and supplies 45 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. They’re low in calories, high in minerals, and a good source of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, iron, niacin and vitamin B-6.

But, you say, isn’t it true that potatoes are fattening? Well, yes, Virginia, they can be, if you buy most of your potato products at a fast-food restaurant, or if you load your baked potatoes with sour cream and butter. Each year, Americans consume more than 4.5 billion pounds of french fries (including more than two billion fast-food orders), snack on 6.7 billion pounds of potatoes processed into potato chips, and consume about 75 million pounds of Tater Tots.

You can blame Thomas Jefferson for America’s love affair with french fries. He reportedly introduced them at a White House dinner in 1802, after seeing French citizens eating pomme frites sold by street vendors in Paris. Today, french fries represent about 95 percent of all frozen potato products sold in the United States. According to one estimate, McDonald’s sells enough french fries each year to account for approximately 7 percent of the total U.S. potato crop.

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