Tuesday, March 4, 2008

International Year of the Potato

The United Nations declared that 2008 was the International Year of the Potato. This was done so as to recognize the important place that potatoes play in feeding the world.

Potatoes are a staple food crop for many parts of the world. They are easy to cultivate and offer a significant amount of carbohydrates. They are also loaded with vitamin C, so much so that a medium sized potato offers almost half of the U.S. Daily Requirement for vitamin C.

As prevalent as potatoes are today, unless you had lived near Peru or Chile in South America, just 500 years ago you would not have known what a potato was. Potatoes derive from the Andes mountain region of South America, and were only exported to Europe by the explorers of the 1500s.

Swiss Post issued a stamp on March 4, 2008 honoring the U.N.'s International Year of the Potato declaration. The stamp features a single potato, with text in German and English. The stamp is denominated as 85, referring to its cost, in centimes. (100 centimes = 1 Swiss Franc). The stamp will pay the postage for a regular sized letter, up to 100 grams, to be sent at the B-tiered rate, which will be delivered within the country within 2 to 3 days.

Interestingly, even though they made the declaration, the United Nations does not seem to have issued a stamp in honor of the spud.

To learn more about potatos, visit this fascinating site - http://www.potato2008.org.


Anonymous said...

Does the United Nations issue stamps?
Perhaps you could post a picture of one, or write an entry about them.

Tony Servies said...

Yes they do issue stamps. I will try to add a post about the UN Postal Authority within a few weeks.

Great question!

Blair (TC) said...

Did you know that there was a local stamp from Tristan da Cunha that had a face value of four potatos (1 penny sterling) ?


I believe it was created circa 1946 and it is seen on covers circa 1950.


Joshua McGee said...

Blair's reference is, I believe, to a stamp essay by Rowland Hill himself, the inventor of the postage stamp! He took a liking to the distant isle of Tristan, and denominated the stamp in the staple crop of the region. Why do I know so much about it? Because it has a penguin on it, and I'm the president of the Penguins on Stamps Study Unit! (http://www.penguinstamps.info)

Potatoes mean the difference between life and death in much of the world. But one should be careful. Despite the common warnings that "all the vitamins are in the peel", potato peels actually contain a paralytic neurotoxin. This chemical is lessened in modern breeds, and modern potatoes have a larger volume-to-surface-area ratio, just due to their size, than potatoes of old. But I think, every time I see heirloom potatoes, in crinkly shapes, harvested "new", in trendy grocery stores: they're selling neurotoxins! 150 years ago, "potato poisoning" was not at all uncommon in some areas of the world, such as Ireland. The person is completely immobilized, and in severe cases, cannot even breathe. So, throw away the old wives' tales and the fancy chefs' tales: buy your potatoes big and modern, and peel them!