Professor Scarecrow Potatoes


Types History Production Shipping Nutrition
Vocabulary Quiz

potatoes

Types

One of North Carolina's many commodities is potatoes. North Carolina produces over 18,500 acres of potatoes for commercial sale valued at approximately 23 million dollars. North Carolina also ranks about 17th in the nation in cash receipts for potatoes. The North Carolina Potato Association works together with the growers to make sure that the quality of potatoes remains one of the best in the nation. They also help to promote potatoes all year round and especially in February which is known a potato-lover's month.

There are three basic types of potatoes. One is round white potatoes. This variety is an all-purpose potato that is round in shape with a pale beige skin. This potato is a cross between waxy and mealy and is often used to make chips. It's a good potato for frying, boiling and grating to make hash browns or potato pancakes. Some varieties are excellent bakers.

Another type is red skinned potatoes or round reds. Often called "new potatoes", round reds have smooth red skins, a round shape and come in a variety of different sizes. Round reds can be as small as one- to two-inches, known as creamers. A waxy potato, round reds are good for boiling, steaming, roasting and pan-frying. They are great in salads.

Yellow flesh potatoes are the third type grown in North Carolina. Many feel this variety has a mild butter flavor. Their buttery flavor lends well to baking, mashing and roasting.
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History

The potato is native to the Peruvian Andes. It was brought to Europe in the 16th century by Spanish explorers. Early in the 18th century the plant was introduced in North America. The earliest authentic record of its cultivation in North America was dated 1719, at Londonderry, New Hampshire. Production in North Carolina probably began later in the 18th century in the northeast part of the state.

Potatoes are a versatile product. Potatoes are served baked, roasted, boiled, mashed, fried, creamed and hashbrowned. They are used in salads, stews, soups, in pancakes and pastries. The variety of potato salads is endless, either hot or cold.

Potatoes have long been a staple at mealtime. There has been a shift in how most potatoes are prepared. Potatoes used to only be served fresh, but today many are processed into french fries and potato chips. This shift is because of the increased use of fast foods and snack foods.

Potato consumption in the United States was formerly much larger than it is now. In 1910 the average person ate about 198 pounds. In 1976 the averate amount of potatoes eaten whether fresh or processed went down to 125 pounds. In 1996 the rate went back up a bit to 140 pounds. People used to eat a lot more potatoes 80 years or more ago. This is because there were far fewer foods on the market than there are now. The recent increase in the use of potatoes is because there have been more frozen potato products in the stores and more potato chips are being made and eaten now than in the 1970's.

This shows the change in the marketplace. By offering more processed types of goods such as frozen hashbrowns, tater tots, etc. and more chips there is an increased use in potatoes. In fact, 75% of North Carolina's potatoes are processed into potato chips.
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Production

Most of North Carolina's potatoes are grown in Northeastern North Carolina along the coast. Most of the production is in the folowing nine coastal counties: Beaufort, Camden, Carteret, Currituck, Hyde, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Tyrrell and Washington. Climate is the main factor in determing whether any region can be an important producer of potatoes. Potatoes grow best in Northeastern North Carolina due to the rich, sandy soil and high mineral type soils found there.

Potatoes are planted in March and harvested in June and July. During these growing times, the potatoes love springlike weather with periodic rainfalls. Sunny spring conditions are the most favorable for growth. Although growth and production of the potato are affected by light intensity, the crop is capable of utilizing relatively low light intensities for long durations. The best temperatures for potatoes are between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Though the rich, sandy soil of northeastern North Carolina are the best for potatoes, the soil must be well plowed. This mixes the soil into fine particles which help the plant to produce more potatoes. Potatoes do not grow well if there is a very heavy rainfall or many storms in a period of days. The fields have to be drained of standing water.

When seeds are planted in March, whole potatoes (seed potatoes) are cut into several pieces and these "seed pieces" are planted. Sprouts begin to appear from one to two weeks after planting. It generally takes 100 days from the time the crop is planted until it is ready for harvest.

Harvesting Potatoes Bagging Potatoes

Once the potatoes are taken from the ground, they are generally shipped out the same day. Special planters and diggers (harvesters) are used to get the potatoes from the ground. There are special potato graders that measure the size and grade of the potatoes. Pesticides are used while they are growing to control the Colorado Potato Beetle. Before machines, potatoes were plowed out of the ground with a horse and plow. They were then picked up by hand and put into barrels or burlap sacks.

All potatoes that are shipped out of the country and all potatoes being shipped to fresh markets must be inspected. There are officials from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that do the grading. They grade based upon the United States Department of Agriculture's standards. Each truckload of potatoes that requires an inspection is inspected on a per load basis. Not every potato in a load is looked at.

Potatoes are graded based upon their similar characteristics, their firmness, thier cleanliness, thier shape (not less than 1 7/8 inches in diameter) and that they are free from disease. If a potato meets these requirements they are considered a U.S. No. 1. Grade A means that the minimum diameter (the size around the potato) is 1 7/8 inches. When a load is designated Grade A it must have the minimum size specified, but should also contain at least 40% of potatoes which are 2 1/2 inches in diameter or larger.

Though potatoes may be found in the finished form as frozen, all North Carolina potatoes are sold fresh. They are then processed by whomever purchases the potatoes. 75% of North Carolina potatoes are processed into potato chips. 25% are sold as fresh product.

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Shipping

Potatoes are sold in small packages for the fresh markets and they are sold loose to the chip market. When these packages are shipped, they are taken on large trucks and trailers. The trailers that carry the potatoes generally have a refrigeration system that keep the temperature around 42 degrees to keep them fresh. Potaotes from North Carolina were first shipped by boats in the rivers and sounds of the northeastern part of the state. Later some potatoes were shipped by rail. Potatoes are shipped all over. Approximately 1,200 truckloads of potatoes were shipped to Canada in 1996.

North Carolina potatoes that are sold to chipping companies are shipped to various chipping plants where the potatoes are sliced and cooked. They are then packaged and shipped all over the country to be sold in retail stores. The potatoes that are sold to grocery chains as fresh potatoes are generally shipped to a central distribution center owned by the chain. The potatoes are then divided up and sent out to their stores.

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Nutrition

The potato is one of the most versatile vegetables grown on your grocer's shelf. When buying potatoes look for potatoes that are fairly clean, firm and smooth. Choose ones with regular shapes so there won't be too much wasted in peeling. Avoid potatoes that are wrinkled or have wilted skins, soft dark areas, cut surfaces or with a green appearance. There isn't a label required for potatoes unless it is being exported to Canada so you may not see labels when checking out potatoes. Any potato that does carry a label must say U.S. No. 1, produce of USA and who grew and packed it. U.S. No. 1 is generally the standard on labels, but each grower's bags may look different.

Potatoes are part of the vegetable group. It is recommended that people eat two to four servings of vegetables daily. Potatoes provide 40% of the recommended daily value for Vitamin C. Potatoes are also high in potassium and are a complex carbohydrate which is the body's main source for fuel. Potatoes have no fat or cholesterol and are very low in sodium. Also remember to eat potatoes with the peel on...you'll not only save time, but you'll add extra fiber, vitamins and minerals to your favorite potato dish.

Potatoes are a great choice at mealtime. People for generations have enjoyed their taste and their nutritional value. When shopping look for any of the three types of potatoes available and remember that Goodness Grows In North Carolina!!!!

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Vocabulary

1. authentic: genuine
2. cultivation: the growing of crops
3. versatile: having many uses
4. durations: periods of time durig which something happens

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