People Really, Really Love Eating Potatoes
The potato is a very important crop that is grown in more than 125 countries worldwide. It's arguably the most important crop that is grown on planet earth. More than a billion people eat potatoes in some form every day and millions upon millions of people around the globe depend on potatoes to ward off hunger. Asia consumes almost half of the world's potato supply but the heartiest potato eaters are Europeans. Per-capita consumption is lowest, but steadily increasing, in Africa and Latin America.
The "Sun Tuber" Has Been Around for Awhile
The potato's scientific name is "Solanum tuberosum" and it was grown in South America for millennia. In fact people were eating potatoes in the Andes mountains around 8,000 years ago. Then the Spanish came in search of gold, but found potatos as well, and brought them to Europe in the 16th century. The first recorded incidence of potato growing in Europe was in 1565, on Spain’s Canary Islands where they went on to spread through mainland Spain and then through the rest of Europe. Suffice to say that potatoes were an instant hit on the continent. They were even sent as gifts to the bigwigs of the day, like the pope in Rome or the King of Spain.
The first potato patch in North America was only planted in 1719, in New Hampshire (the first french fries were served at the White House during the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson some 80 years later).
In modern times consumer demand has shifting from fresh potatoes to processed products, especially for convenience food and snacks like french fries. The major drivers behind this trend is the fact that in developed and developing countries people simply don't have time to prepare fresh food.
A Little Modern Potato History
The world potato sector has undergone major changes. Until the early 1990s, most potatoes were grown and consumed in Europe, North America and countries of the former Soviet Union. Since then, there has been a dramatic increase in potato production and demand in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where output rose from less than 30 million tonnes in the early 1960s to more than 368 million tonnes in 2018. FAO data show that in 2005, for the first time in modern times, the developing world's potato production exceeded that of the developed world. China is now the biggest potato producer by far, and almost a third of all potatoes are harvested in China and India.
The Potato is an Efficient Little Tuber
The potato is kind of a super-vegetable because it produces more nutritious food more quickly, on less land, and in harsher climates than any other major crop. Up to 85 percent of the potato plant is edible human food, compared to around 50 percent in cereals. That means the potato is an important crop in keeping world hunger at bay. It's genus Solanum is shared with at least 1000 other species of plant including tomato and eggplant. A potato is around 72 to 75% water 16% starch and 2 to 2.5% protein.
The Potato is also pretty good for you
Potatoes are rich in carbohydrates, making them am excellent source of food energy. They have the
highest protein content in the root and tuber family. They are a source of high quality proteins and are also very rich in vitamin C. In fact a single, medium-sized potato contains about half the recommended daily intake of vitamin and a potato contains a pretty impressive fifth of the recommended daily value of potassium (so take that bananas). The Potato is so impressively rich in starch that it ranks as the world’s fourth most important food crop, after maize, wheat and rice.
Potato Producing Regions
Asia and Europe are the world's major potato producing regions, accounting for more than 80 percent of world production in 2018. While harvests in Africa and Latin America were far smaller, production was at or near record levels. North America was the clear leader in yields, at more than 40 tonnes per hectare.
India produces nearly 14% of the total global potato production, which is forecasted to be at about 370 million tonnes for the year 2021. Year over year there has been a significant increase in production in most of the major potato producing countries like China, India, United States, and Europe. It remains to be seen if the worldwide pandemic in 2020 will have a significant effect on global potato production.