100 ) Of the many kinds of vegetables grown all over the world, which remains the favorite of young and old alike? Why, the potato, of course.
Perhaps you know them as taters, spuds, or Kennebees, or as chips, Idahoes, or even shoestrings. No matter, a potato by any other name is still a potato- the world's most widely grown vegetable. As a matter of fact, if you are an average potato eater, you will put away at least a hundred pounds of them each year.
That's only a tiny portion of the amount grown every year, however. Worldwide, the annual potato harvest is over six billion bags- each bag containing a hundred pounds of spuds, some of them as large as four pounds each. Here in the United States, farmers fill about four hundred million bags a year. That may seem like a lot of taters, but it leaves us a distant third among world potato growers. Polish farmers dig up just over 800 million bags a year, while the Russians lead the world with nearly 1.5 billion bags.
The first potatoes were grown by the Incas of South America, more than four hundred years ago. Their descendants in Ecuador and Chile continue to grow the vegetable as high as fourteen thousand feet up in the Andes Mountains. ( That's higher than any other food will grow.) Early Spanish and English explorers shipped potatoes to Europe, and they found their way to North America in the early 1600s.
People eat potatoes in many ways-baked, mashed, and roasted, to name just three. However, in the United States most potatoes are devoured in the form of French fries. One fast-food chain alone sells more than $1 billion worth of fries each year. No wonder, then, that the company pays particular attention to the way its fries are prepared.
Before any fry makes it to the people who eat at these popular restaurants, it must pass many separate tests. Fail any one and the spud is rejected. To start with, only russet Burbank potatoes are used. These Idaho potatoes have less water content than other kinds, which can have as much as eighty percent water. Once cut into shoestrings shapes, the potatoes are partly fried in a secret blend of oils, sprayed with liquid sugar to brown them, steam dried at high heat, then flash frozen for shipment to individual restaurants.
Before shipping, though, every shoestring is measured. Forty percent of a batch must be between two and three inches long. Another forty percent has to be over three inches. What about the twenty percent that are left in the batch? Well, a few short fries in a bag are okay, it seems.
So, now that you realize the enormous size and value of the potato crop, you can understand why most people agree that this part of the food industry is no small potatoes.
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