The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial nightshade Solanum tuberosum L. The word "potato" may refer either to the plant itself or to the edible tuber. In the Andes, where the species is indigenous, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species. Potatoes were introduced outside the Andes region approximately four centuries ago, and have since become an integral part of much of the world's food supply. It is the world's fourth-largest food crop, following maize, wheat, and rice. The green leaves and green skins of tubers exposed to the light are toxic.
Wild potato species can be found throughout the Americas from the United States to southern Chile. The potato was originally believed to have been domesticated independently in multiple locations, but later genetic testing of the wide variety of cultivars and wild species proved a single origin for potatoes in the area of present-day southern Peru and extreme northwestern Bolivia (from a species in the Solanum brevicaule complex), where they were domesticated approximately 7,000–10,000 years ago. Following centuries of selective breeding, there are now over a thousand different types of potatoes. Over 99% of the presently cultivated potatoes worldwide descended from varieties that originated in the lowlands of south-central Chile, which have displaced formerly popular varieties from the Andes.
However, the local importance of the potato is variable and changing rapidly. It remains an essential crop in Europe (especially eastern and central Europe), where per capita production is still the highest in the world, but the most rapid expansion over the past few decades has occurred in southern and eastern Asia. As of 2007 China led the world in potato production, and nearly a third of the world's potatoes were harvested in China and India.
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Potato pancakes are shallow-fried pancakes of grated or ground potato, flour and egg, often flavored with grated garlic or onion and seasoning. Potato pancakes may be topped with a variety of condiments, ranging from the savory (such as sour cream or cottage cheese) to the sweet (such as apple sauce or sugar), or they may be served ungarnished. Potato pancakes are sometimes made from mashed potatoes to produce pancake-shaped croquettes.
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French fries are batonnet or allumette cut potato that are normally deep-fried but could also be cooked in an oven. In the United States and most of Canada, the term fries refers to any fried elongated pieces of potatoes, while in the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, Ireland and New Zealand, allumette cut fried potatoes are sometimes called shoestring fries to distinguish them from the batonnet cut chips.
French fries are served hot, either soft or crispy, and generally eaten as part of lunch or dinner, or by themselves as a snack, and they commonly appear on the menus of fast food restaurants. French fries are generally salted and are often served with ketchup; in many countries they are topped instead with other condiments or toppings, including vinegar, mayonnaise, or other local specialties. Fries can also be topped more elaborately, as in the dishes of poutine and chili cheese fries. Sometimes, fries are made with sweet potatoes instead of potatoes, are baked instead of fried, or are cut into unusual shapes.
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A potato chip is a thin slice of potato that has been deep fried, baked, kettle-cooked, or popped until crunchy. Potato chips are commonly served as a snack, side dish, or appetizer. The basic chips are cooked and salted; additional varieties are manufactured using various flavorings and ingredients including herbs, spices, cheeses, and artificial additives.
Potato chips are a predominant part of the snack food market in Western countries. The global potato chip market generated total revenues of US$16.49 billion in 2005. This accounted for 35.5% of the total savory snacks market in that year ($46.1 billion)
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