A potato is a type of vegetable. The scientific name of the potato plant is Solanum tuberosum. It contains a lot of starch and other carbohydrates. It is a small plant with large leaves. The part of the potato that people eat is a tuber that grows under the ground. It usually has a brown or pink skin and is white or yellow inside. If it gets light on it, the tuber turns green and will be poisonous.
The potato is from the high and cool areas of the Andes of Peru. It began to be grown as a food crop more than 7,000 years ago. When the Europeans came to South America in the 1500s they took the potato back to Europe. It took nearly 200 years for the potato to become a widely grown crop. In the 1780s the farmers in Ireland began growing potatoes because they grew well in the poor soils. They also have most of the vitamins that people need to survive. The Irish became so dependent on the potato that when the crop failed in 1845 there was a famine and many people starved to death.
The potato plant is now grown in many different parts of the world. Captain William Bligh planted potatoes on Bruny Island, Tasmania in 1792. In Australia they are now the largest vegetable crop.
There are now many different types of potato. These have names such as:
- Yukon Gold - developed in Canada
- Yellow Finn
- Desiree, cream colored flesh, red skin.
The potato is not very good to eat unless it is cooked. People cook potatoes by boiling, baking, roasting, or frying them. French fries or "chips" are potatoes cut into long pieces and fried until they are soft. Potato chips, often called crisps, are potatoes cut into very thin round pieces and fried until they are hard.
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