Seven Fun Facts about Potatoes

Potatoes are a staple food and an important crop to Idaho and the world. According to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, every year Idaho produces one-third of the nation’s potatoes – that’s more than 11 billion pounds of potatoes on more than 300,000 acres of land. October is National Potato Month, so in honor of the small but mighty potato, here are seven facts you might not have known.

Fact 1: There are more than 4,000 different varieties of potatoes worldwide

Around the world, there are more than 4,000 different varieties of potatoes. In the United States there are more than 200 different varieties sold. Idaho produces 30 varieties of potatoes, some of the most popular being Russets, Yukon Golds, Reds, and Fingerlings.

Fact 2: In 1995, potatoes became the first vegetable grown in space

In 1995, the University of Wisconsin partnered with NASA to try growing potatoes in space. NASA took clippings from a potato plant and sent half into space with the Colombia space shuttle while the other half was grown on Earth. The experiment produced five small “space” potatoes with no noticeable difference from the ones grown on Earth.

Fact 3: Potatoes have been used in folk medicine

From the Incas to China, potatoes have also had medicinal uses in many cultures. The Incas used to have people carry around a potato if they had a toothache, while Chinese medicine suggested putting potatoes in your socks to cure colds.

Fact 4: Potatoes have a single place of origin

Potatoes are now eaten all around the world and many cultures have staple potato dishes, but it turns out potatoes originated from a wild plant in the highlands of the Andes in what is now Peru and Bolivia. The potato was brought to Europe by Spanish Conquistadors in the late 16th century.

Fact 5: Potatoes have been grown as a crop for at least 5,400 years

Archaeologists noted in a 2016 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that they found micro-remains of a potato on ancient tools found in southern Peru dating back to 3,400 BCE. That means potatoes have been grown as a crop for at least 5,400 years!

Fact 6: Potatoes are not related to sweet potatoes

It turns out potatoes and sweet potatoes are not related. Sweet potatoes come from the Convolvulaceae family, while potatoes are from the Nightshade family. Sweet potatoes are not tubers, rather they are the root of the sweet potato plant.

Fact 7: Potatoes are the third most important food crop worldwide

Potatoes are critical to the world’s food supply and are the third most important food crop after rice and wheat. More than 1 billion people consume potatoes each year and worldwide crop production is more than 300 million metric tons.

Potatoes are a unique vegetable and an integral part of the Idaho economy. To learn more about how to protect your potato farm contact your local FBMICI agent.

Disclaimer: The information included here is designed for informational purposes only. It is not legal, tax, financial or any other sort of advice, nor is it a substitute for such advice. The information may not apply to your specific situation. We have tried to make sure the information is accurate, but it could be outdated or even inaccurate in parts.


Idaho State Department of Agriculture
International Potato Center
Sustainable Food Center
Food Republic
The New York Times