Food

7 Facts About Potatoes That You Didn't Know And Will Now Want To Tell Everyone

For a long time, people thought potatoes could straight-up kill them.

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1. To grow potatoes, you plant ACTUAL POTATOES, not seeds.

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Alternatively, you can plant pieces of potato, as long as each piece has at least two eyes. 👀

2. Not to be a potato stan*, but potatoes are VERY GOOD FOR YOU.

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Fresh potatoes are considered one of the most satiety-promoting food in existence. (Meaning you stay full between meals vs. just feeling full as you eat.) They have more potassium than bananas. (A 100-gram potato has 425 milligrams; a 100-gram banana has 358 milligrams.) And when eaten in combination with milk (or cheese), they become pretty much the perfect food, nutrient-wise — like, you aren't going hungry or getting scurvy as long as you have potatoes.

*Who am I kidding? I am 100% a potato stan. Potatoes are my favorite food IN PART BECAUSE THEY ARE SO GOOD FOR YOU.

3. But for a long time, large swaths of people were incredibly suspicious of potatoes and thought potatoes could kill them.

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Andrew F. Smith writes in Potato: A Global History that when the potato came to Europe from South America in the sixteenth century, a lot of people were like, "Nah, keep it." Many herbalists believed that potatoes were poisonous, and other Europeans took the position that if God wanted people to eat potatoes, they would have been mentioned in the bible.

It actually took a decades-long PR campaign to get Europeans to recognize that potatoes are the world’s best side dish/snack/junk food/everything food. Some highlights:

* Legend has it has it that King Frederick II of Prussia (1712-1786) tried to bring the potato to his people, but the villagers were like, "Hard pass." So he had soldiers start guarding his potato field — but told them not to guard too carefully at night — and his efforts in reverse psychology...actually worked?! People began stealing the potatoes and planting them in their own gardens.

* A pharmacist and soldier named Antoine-Augustin Parmentier was a big champion of potatoes in France; after he was captured during the Seven Years War (1756-1763) and survived mostly on a diet of potatoes during his five years as a prisoner, he tried to get the French people excited about their nutritional benefits. He released multiple books extolling their virtues and teamed up with Benjamin Franklin to throw a fancy "surprise— everything you're eating is actually made from potatoes!" dinner. And people were still like, "Naw, dawg." (Er, "Non, chien!")

* Marie Antoinette reportedly wore potato blossoms in her hair and Louis XVI wore them in his buttonhole to try to get French farmers and people hyped about potatoes. (Yeah, I had to re-read the word "buttonhole" a few times too.)

5. Mr. Potato Head toys originally used a real potato.

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George Learner, the toy's inventor, designed a set of point-backed facial features (think thumbtacks) as a way to get kids excited about vegetables. When it debuted in 1952, it became the first toy to get its own TV commercial — and it sold like gangbusters. The plastic potato didn't enter the scene until 1964.

6. Dan Quayle apparently does know how to spell "potato."

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In June 1992, then-Vice-President Quayle moderated a spelling bee at an elementary school in Trenton, New Jersey. He read the word "potato" from a flash card to12-year-old Willian Figueroa, who was then to write the word on a chalk board. Figueroa wrote it correctly, but for whatever reason, the card Quayle had been given said "potatoe." (Or so he says.) So, Quayle told the kid he'd spelled it wrong and had him go back and add an "e" to the end of the word. No one intervened. (Which: holy shit, can you imagine what the adults in the room must have been thinking at that moment?!) At the press conference afterward, a reporter asked Quayle how to spell potato and everyone laughed.

The story got picked up by the local newspaper, which ran with the front-page headline "Dan Can't Spell Potato" and a comment from Figueroa in which he said "'the rumors about the vice president are true — that he's an idiot." (Which, again: holy shit! But in 2004, Figueroa told the New York Times that the quote was inaccurate, so IDEK.) The story made the national news and Figueroa became low-key famous for 15 minutes, making $8,000 in endorsements following the incident. (Figueroa ALSO told the Times that he regrets not making more money from the incident. Say it with me now: HOLY SHIT!) Meanwhile, Quayle never lived it down and devoted an entire chapter to the incident in his 1994 memoir, writing, "It was more than a gaffe. It was a 'defining moment' of the worst imaginable kind. I can't overstate how discouraging and exasperating the whole event was."

Let's call the whole thing off.

7. Are Pringles potato chips? To answer that question, we'll have to turn to the 1975 COURT CASE that sought to answer that very question.

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So, Pringles, a Proctor & Gamble product, aren't made from sliced and fried potatoes — they are made from "a slurry of rice, wheat, corn, and potato flakes" which is then pressed into the distinctive shape. But in the 1960s, P&G started marketing their new creation as potato chips, which pissed off a bunch of smaller potato chip companies, who then took P&G to court to stop them from using the phrase. In 1975, the FDA ruled that P&G could label Pringles "potato chips"...but they had to also add "made from dried potatoes" to the label...and it had to be written in a font that was at least half as large as the size of the largest font used to write "potato chips." The smaller potato chip companies were not pleased.

This all got re-litigated in the U.K. in the aughts; despite winning the earlier court case, Pringles later took the position that they were not a potato chip (which is taxable in the U.K.), but simply a snack (which is exempt from the value-added tax). In 2009, after some truly wild arguments about "the essence of a potato," the Supreme Court of Judicature eventually ruled that Pringles are, in fact, potato chips; with that, Proctor & Gamble U.K. owed $160 million in taxes, and the question was officially put to rest.