1537: Potatoes arrive in Europe from America. For the next 200 years, potatoes are largely used as animal fodder and food for the very poor.
1558: By now, the potato has found a wide following among Italian peasants. Monks take it across the Alps into Austria, then to Germany, Switzerland, and finally France.
1600: Germany's King Frederick William and England's Sir Walter Raleigh popularize the potato. King William does so by threatening to cut off the ears of any peasant who declines to eat them. Sir Walter introduces potatoes to Ireland.
1621: Potatoes arrive in North America when the governor of Bermuda, Capt. Nathaniel Butler, sends two cedar chests of potatoes to Francis Wyatt, the governor of Virginia.
1620s: Suddenly, potatoes fall into disgrace in Europe. It is rumored that the tubers, because they are related to the deadly nightshade, are poisonous. (Tomatoes are equally suspect for this reason.) Some Christians object that because potatoes are not in the Bible, they should be shunned. The bad publicity continues for years.
1700s: Potatoes are now a key source of food in Ireland and Germany. They are prolific and nutritious. Enough can be grown on a small plot to feed a family and its livestock. When blight strikes Ireland's crop in 1846, many starve. Others emigrate, many of them to America.
1837: Henry Spalding is the first to plant potatoes in Idaho.
1955: McDonald's starts selling French fries for 10 cents a bag.
1998: China is the world's biggest potato producer: 295 million tons.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society