Did you know that potatoes originated in South America, some 10,000 years ago, in what is now modern Peru! It arrived in Europe in the early 16th century, brought to their shores by sailors, initially to Spain and then to Britain (allegedly by the famous privateer Sir Walter Raleigh). It rapidly became the most important new staple food in Europe, in particular, Ireland.
Potatoes were easy to grow, prolifically satisfied hunger thanks to its bulk, and had a low rate of spoilage. As a result, it became the most important among all vegetables, pushing the turnip into second place. It also yielded almost three times the number of calories per acre as grain.
It is speculated that the consumption of the nutritious potato was the catalyst that promoted economic development in Britain by underpinning the Industrial Revolution. This belief runs in parallel with the aims of our Breakfast Program “Kids-Luv-It” for kids at Free Food For All (FFFA) - equipping children with proper nutrition to stimulate academic growth.
Potato cultivation in largely agrarian Ireland was massive and entire poor families (of which there were many) could feed themselves for a year on one acre of potatoes, on top of milk from one cow. Sadly, the limited variety of potato made it vulnerable to diseases and a potato blight - the Irish Potato Famine, broke out from 1845 to 1849. It was responsible for almost 1 million deaths (in Ireland) and was the reason for mass emigration.
The exodus from Ireland was massive, heading in particular to the United States, Canada and Britain. It was calculated that Ireland lost half its population (pre-famine 8 million) during these times, due to death or emigration!
Interesting fact: French Fries originated in Belgium!
Apparently, American soldiers in Belgium during World War I developed the dish. As the language of Southern Belgium was French, the dish "French Fries" was born.