King Frederick inspects the potato crops.
1. POTATO PUSHER
The potato came to Europe in the late 1500s, but it wasn’t met with a warm welcome. Disregarded by most, it was first used only to feed livestock. But Frederick the Great of Prussia saw the tuber’s potential. Sure, potatoes tasted bland, but they were versatile, cheaper than bread, and easy to stockpile. He introduced them to his army in 1744 and later freely distributed them to peasants during famine. The people weren’t convinced. In fact, the town of Kolberg was so put off that it responded in a letter: “The things have neither smell nor taste, not even the dogs will eat them, so what use are they to us?” To change public opinion, King Frederick employed some reverse psychology and established a royal potato field patrolled by soldiers. Soon, curious citizens were slinking around at night with stolen potatoes to plant in their gardens -exactly what Frederick wanted.
2. THE RICEMAN COMETH
Thomas Jefferson knew how important healthy farms were to his fledgling nation, and he didn’t mind getting his hands dirty to keep his country strong. By summer 1787, the American rice industry was starting to crumble. The rice was mostly grown in swamps, and the stagnant water was a breeding ground for mosquitoes that made nearby workers sick. During his tenure as minister to France, Jefferson found the farmers’ solution: a dry, upland variety of rice grown in Italy. There was just one problem: Italian law forbade “the exportation of rough rice on pain of death.” Jefferson, however, used his power to declare the rice independent, secretly filling his coat pockets with the unhusked varietel before making for the border.
3. CROSS YOUR TEAS