Chef Essig's Featured Item of the Week

This week's Featured Item of the Week was written and submitted by Darci Hata. Darci is currently an ACF (American Culinary Federation) Apprentice here at UNC Dining Services. Thank you Darci!

Mmmmm, French fries...

Were you aware that around 4 million tons of French Fries are consumed by Americans annually? It is said that an average American eats about 140 pounds of potatoes every year. How many pounds of French Fries do you think UNC Dining Services serves?


Staggering Statistics

We crunched the numbers and figured out that over 23,000 pounds of French Fries are consumed by UNC students, faculty, staff, and guests each academic year... that works out to over 700 pounds per week. Dining Services also uses just under 12,000 baking potatoes (as well as 650 pounds of Red and Gold potatoes) to create a variety of different dishes throughout the year.

Support your local colorado potato farmers

Those statistics are great for Colorado potato farmers. It's a little-known fact that Colorado is the #2 fresh potato shipper in the United States. The majority of Colorado potatoes are grown in the San Luis Valley, located in Southern Colorado. The San Luis Valley floor is 7,600 feet above sea level and gets a large quantity of snow during the winter months. The elevation and abundance of snow helps to make this a perfect area for growing potatoes.


If you are interested in supporting your local potato farmers. Food just seems to taste better when you know it has traveled less than 50 miles to get to your plate. You could also take a tour of local potato farms and learn more about this amazing vegetable.

it's true... We Love Potatoes

The history of potatoes is an intriguing story, as they have been around for over 1,000 years. The Ancient Incas in Peru are believed to be the first to grow the tuber. In the Andes Mountains, there are hundreds of varieties of potatoes grown... many of them are native plants rather than hybrids.


When the Europeans were first introduced to the potato plant, they were quickly turned off because it was a part of the Nightshade family (mandrakes, tomatoes and eggplant). Those in Europe used to believe that plants from the Nightshade family were all poisonous. Then in the early 16th century, Ireland was introduced to the potato plant by Sir Walter Raleigh. The Irish welcomed the potato plant with open arms, and it became part of their daily diet and farming.

Thank you Benjamin Franklin!

Benjamin Franklin was the first to introduce potatoes to the United States after he ate them at a dinner in France. He brought the vegetable back to the US and planted the first crop of potatoes. Currently in the United Sates, there are four main types of potatoes:

  1. Russet = baking potatoes
  2. Long Whites = fingerlings
  3. Round White = brown skin
  4. Round Red = red skin

Sweet potatoes seem so similar to potatoes, but they are not a part of the potato family at all. Unlike potatoes, which come from the Nightshade family, the sweet potato comes from the Morning Glory family.

sweet potato

Space Potatoes

In 1995, NASA and the University of Wisconsin at Madison worked together on a project; they succeeded in growing the first vegetable in space -- potatoes. With the advancement of science and technology, more varieties of potatoes are being brought to our tables every year. Potatoes are a very versatile plant that grows in many different places across the globe. That is one of the many reasons potatoes are so popular.

It all started in a Test Tube

Another interesting fact about potatoes is that the seed is rarely started in the ground. Most potatoes plants are started in test tubes before they ever touch the earth.


10 reasons to love the colorado potato

While researching this piece on potatoes, Darci found a "top 10" list on the website that she thought you might like to read.

  1. It’s no coincidence that February is Colorado Potato Lovers’ Month and American Heart Month. Colorado potatoes (with the skin) are a good source of potassium. Research shows that potassium may help lower high blood pressure, contributing to a heart-healthy diet.
  2. This one’s simple: one medium-sized Colorado potato (5.3 oz.) has 110 calories and is fat- and cholesterol- free.
  3. Did you grow up listening to your mother tell you to eat your vegetables? Well, Colorado potatoes are vegetables, so eat away!
  4. It’s cold season and what you eat can help you fight off the winter bug – a medium-sized Colorado spud has nearly half the recommended daily value of vitamin C and is also a good source of vitamin B6.
  5. Colorado potatoes are also a source of dietary fiber, a complex carbohydrate, which is known to increase satiety and help with weight loss.
  6. Russets, reds, fingerlings, blues, purples, yellows and whites – with these common fresh Colorado potato varieties, there’s always a new color or texture to experiment with.
  7. No time to boil or bake? That’s a good thing! The quickest methods for cooking Colorado potatoes, microwaving and steaming, are also the healthiest because they allow the potato to retain the most nutritional value.
  8. Colorado potato casserole, potato salad, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, roasted potatoes – what do these dishes have in common? They can all be made in less than 20 minutes and without turning on the oven or boiling water!
  9. Colorado potatoes with skin rank highest for potassium content among the top 20 most frequently consumed raw vegetables and the top 20 most frequently consumed raw fruits. That means they have more potassium than a banana, more than broccoli, more than an orange, more than spinach… you get the idea!
  10. For a Colorado potato dish that’s packed with potassium, try the Quick & Healthy Microwave Mashed Potatoes recipe, or visit for more healthy potato recipes.

Darci's Sources

  • The New Food Lover’s Companion: Fourth Edition
  • The Professional Chef: Eight Edition

Happy Dining!
Executive Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA

Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA

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