One of the quirkiest places that we visited on this trip was the Canadian Potato Museum in Prince Edward Island on Friday. Although Canada is not the largest producer of potatoes in the world (that goes to China, then to Russia, which collectively both produce 110 million tonnes. Canada harvests about five million tonnes, which makes it the 12th or 13th largest producer in the world of potatoes. According to the museum information, Prince Edward Island produces about one-third of Canada’s potatoes, which means that if PEI were a country and not a province, it would rank in the top 30 potato producers in the world. In per capita potato production terms, Belarus leads the world with 900 kilograms of potatoes per person. China harvests 55. Canada ranks 6th with about 150, while PEI, with a population of about 150,000 people with a harvest of about 1.5 million tons, stands at 10,000 kilograms per person, which leads us to why the potato museum is located here.
It’s funny to see how the perception of potatoes has changed over time. Once upon a time, potatoes were seen as potentially poisonous, so people avoided them at all costs, especially those with money. But over time, they started seeing how nutritious they were, basically being able to provide quite a large profile of vitamins and nutrients to those on a budget. They were even marketed as the “complete food” and at a small cost, too, even a “health food” by some advertisements. The sad thing about this is that in today’s day and age when carbs are being villainized, so too are potatoes given that they are seen as an “empty” carb or starch, providing only a fraction of the nutrients that say, a sweet potato or yam can provide. Most diets that advise to maximize amount of nutrients and vitamins per calorie suggest avoiding potatoes altogether. So much for the “health food” spin of the humble potato.
We left the potato museum with some freshly fried French fries made from one of 77 locally grown potato varieties of P.E.I. They were fresh and delicious, sweet and savory, with a smooth, creamy mouthfeel. These could easily have been some of the most enjoyable French fries we’ve eaten.