How it all really started.
The history of the potato has its roots in the windswept Andes Mountains of South America. It is an austere region plagued by fluctuating temperatures and poor soil conditions. Yet the tough and durable potato evolved in its thin air (elevations up to 15,000 feet), climbing ever higher like the people who first settled the region. The tough pre-Columbian farmers first discovered and cultivated the potato some 7,000 years ago. They were impressed by its ruggedness, storage quality and its nutritional value. Western man did not come in contact with the potato until as late as 1537 when the Conquistadors tramped through Peru. And it was even later, about 1570, that the first potato made its way across the Atlantic to make a start on the continent of Europe. Though the tuber was productive and hardy, the Spanish put it to very limited use. In the Spanish Colonies potatoes were considered food for the underclasses; when brought to the Old World they would be used primarily to feed hospital inmates. It would take three decades for the potato to spread to the rest of Europe. Even so the potato was cultivated primarily as a curiosity by amateur botanists. Resistance was due to ingrained eating habits, the tuber's reputation as a food for the underpriveleged and perhaps most importantly its relationship to poisonous plants. The potato is a member of the nightshade family and its leaves are, indeed, poisonous. A potato left too long in the light will begin to turn green. The green skin contains a substance called solanine which can cause the potato to taste bitter and even cause illness in humans. Such drawbacks were understood in Europe, but the advantages, generally, were not.
1719 - Potatoes had been introduced to the United States several times throughout the 1600s. They were not widely grown for almost a century until 1719
The history of potatoes started some 10,000 years ago in the mountains of South America. The root vegetable was introduced to Europe by Spanish conquistadores in the late 1500s. The very first Belgian Fries were cooked up one cold winter day during the 1700s when the supply of small fish ran low and enterprising cooks cut potatoes into fish shapes and fried them for their customers.
Belgian historian Jo Gerard recounts that potatoes were fried in 1680 in the Spanish Netherlands, in the area of "the Meuse valley between Dinant and Liege, Belgium. The poor inhabitants of this region allegedly had the custom of accompanying their meals with small fried fish, but when the river was frozen and they were unable to fish, they cut potatoes lengthwise and fried them in oil to accompany their meals.
Most Belgians know that the term "French" was introduced when British or American soldiers arrived in Belgium during World War I, and consequently tasted Belgian fries. They supposedly called them "French", as it was the official language of the Belgian Army at that time.