Can you guess America’s favorite vegetable? Here’s a hint: we really like them fried, fried, and fried… We more potatoes than any other veg, yet it’s really easy to forget when you’re munching on those chips, that you’re really eating fried slices of plant root…well, not exactly, but we’ll get to that, because we’re here at King’s Family Potato Farm, to find out: How Does It Grow? One medium potato provides almost half your daily value of vitamin C, and is super rich in potassium. Potatoes originated from the Andes. Explorers brought them to Europe, where they fueled the rise of populations across the continent. And today potatoes are the fourth most farmed crop on the planet. Here in southern Pennsylvania, the Kings have been growing potatoes since the 50s. Conrad King took the reins from his 86 year old dad, who still helps out at harvest time. The Kings grew potatoes exclusively for chips, so we’re going to follow these spuds from farm to factory. in spring, they plant potatoes specially grown to use a seed, which are chopped into pieces, containing at least one eye. That’s where the new plant sprouts. Potatoes do produce true seed, inside little green berries, that are the real fruit of the potato plant. But if you plant one of those seeds you’re going to get a new type of potato. To get the same kind of potato, farmers plant the tuber itself. So let’s talk tuber. Potatoes grow underground, but they’re not roots they’re tubers. Roots suck up nutrients from the soil; tubers store these nutrients. That’s why potatoes are fat and starchy. The farmer mounds the soil high over the potatoes. If they’re too close to the surface during a dry spell, the earth will crack and expose the potatoes to sunlight. That’s what turns potatoes green and bitter. Sunlight triggers the build-up of solanine, a chemical that’s deadly… – if you eat like 60 potatoes in one sitting…So if you see any green, just cut it off – you’ll live. When the plants flower in June, farmers know the potatoes are beginning to grow. Meanwhile, farmers keep a lookout for two enemies: a fungus called late blight which was the cause of Ireland’s Great Famine in the 1800s; and this little leaf eating sucker – the Colorado potato beetle. If they get out of hand, they’ll kill an entire crop in days. As the leaves of the plant begin to brown, the potato skins start to set and thicken, Conrad harvests them before the skins set, because at the chip factory, they’re going to be peeled straight away but he’s got to move quickly. Without their toughened skin, the potatoes can start rotting within 24 hours. More than half the potatoes America eats are processed, including chips like Herr’s. Here at their factory, potatoes from different farms are rarely mixed before cooking. That means the chips in your bag likely came from a single farm, like Kings. First the potatoes are peeled, then sliced. Every inch of potato makes about 20 slices – each one just 50 thousandth of an inch thick! Now they’re ready for the fryer. The chips cook for just a couple minutes, and in a vat of 370 degree corn oil; then they’re scanned for spots – dark chips are rejected by a gust of air with pinpoint precision. Finally, the chips are seasoned, and bagged with a spritz of nitrogen that eliminates the oxygen to preserve the chips. In 24 hours, Herr’s produces 1 million bags Potatoes are 80% water, as they cook, that moisture is released and replaced by whatever cooking fat you’re using. Oil, butter, etc. Since chips are super thin slices submerged in oil for over two minutes, they lose almost all their moisture. They’re 2 percent water at the end. On the other hand, boiled potatoes retain almost all their moisture, but they lose half of their potassium and vitamin C. It leaches out into the water. I have a recipe that’s right in the middle. These use just 2 tablespoons of olive oil – a lot of that gets left in the pan. The best part? You get to use one of these… We’re going to roast a batch of small potatoes on a sheet pan, with olive oil, salt and pepper. Half way through cooking, pull them out, and smash them. If you’re working with kids, you might want to transfer these to a cool pan. Now, you don’t want to break them apart; you just want to smush out the insides. These are the bits that are going to crisp up deliciously, when you put them back in the oven. Continue roasting until they’re golden and tender. You get the crispness of a french fry, with the creaminess of a baked potato. Cooking with a side of stress relief – I think that’s a perfect recipe – happy smashing!