6/20/2013 - New Hampshire residents have the perfect reason to eat more French fries, hash browns and baked potatoes now.
Gov. Maggie Hassan recently signed a bill into law making the white potato the state’s official vegetable. Fourth-grade students at Derry Village Elementary School prompted the bill after learning about the vegetable’s history in the Granite State.
According to reports, in 1719, an Irish immigrant brought a sack of potatoes to the Derry area, making it the first place where the white potato was planted and cultivated.
“Legend has it that the first instance of growing Irish potatoes in the colonies occurred in Londonderry, N.H., in the mid-1700s, brought by the Scots-Irish settlers of the town,” said Richard Uncles, supervisor of the Bureau of Markets at the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food. “Today, Americans are not nearly as dependent on the potato as many of our ancestors were. More glamorous vegetables compete for our food-shopping dollar. Yet the potato remains an inexpensive, nutritious and tasty staple of most American diets in one form or another.”
The students in Derry began pushing for the bill in December 2012. The House ultimately approved the request after some discussion.
Derry State Representative John O’Connor supported the students’ wishes, noting New Hampshire had no current state vegetable and the white potato’s history really began in Derry. The town’s claim to the vegetable is referenced in a highway marker claiming the site was the potato’s first planting ground in North America. The vegetable is already the state vegetable of Idaho, known for its potatoes, while the sweet potato is the state vegetable in North Carolina and Louisiana. Many other neighboring states, including Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut, have no official state vegetable, though Maine is also known for its potatoes.
According to the National Potato Council, New Hampshire isn’t even in the top 10 potato producing states in the country. In the top five are Idaho, Washington, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Colorado. Maine ranks number 10, producing 1.6 billion pounds in 2012.
According to nutritional data from the National Potato Council, an average medium white potato has about 130 calories, three grams of protein, 30 grams of carbohydrates and a significant amount of Vitamin C. The potato is also low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, and is considered an antioxidant.