Things have been rough for the potato over the last decade or so. American consumers have been turning a cold shoulder toward the humble tuber, with each of us eating 22 pounds of potatoes less in 2012 compared to what we put down in 2000, the National Potato Council reports.
The slide has been steady, and both potato growers and agricultural scientists have taken note. If you’re young and have some expendable income, they’d like to sell you a potato with a little more pizzaz than the one your grandma overcooked.
"What we are doing now is developing unique varieties that have a tendency to appeal to the younger set with high income who are willing to try something different,” said Creighton Miller, a Texas A&M University horticultural scientist who turns out new breeds of potato and legume. “This has contributed somewhat to an increase in consumption of these types over the russets, which are still the standard.”
Breeding programs are constantly trying to improve potatoes to make them more disease and pest resistant, and to make them better suited to industrial processing like making chips and frozen french fries. But scientists are also combing through natural variations in potatoes to find characteristics that might make the fresh tubers more appealing to people.