Why Do Potatoes Have Eyes?
The tiny indentations, called “eyes,” in a potato are really small buds. When a potato is cut apart, with a bud (or eye) in each section and planted, the buds sprout and grow new potato plants. And every new plant forms many new potatoes under the ground. So even though a potato’s eyes can’t help it see underground, they can help grow more potatoes!
Even though a potato grows in the ground, it is not the root of the plant. It is the underground part of the stem that has thickened. This part of the stem is called a tuber. Tubers thicken and grow big because they store the food supply that nourishes the buds as they sprout into new plants.
Potatoes were first grown more than 10,000 years ago in the Andes region of Peru in South America. Spanish explorers brought the potato to Europe in the 1500s. Europeans brought potatoes to North America in the 1600s. Today, potatoes are the world’s fourth-largest food crop, behind rice, wheat and corn.
There are now more than 1,000 different types of potatoes around the world. China produces the most potatoes of any country in the world. In the United States, Idaho and Washington produce the most potatoes each year. Other states with major potato crops include North Dakota, Wisconsin, Colorado, Oregon and Maine.