Taters, potatoes, spuds, whatever you call them, March 31 is the day to celebrate this humble vegetable, or pair of vegetables. National Tater Day started way back in 1843, celebrating the beginning of spring. The townsfolk in parts of Kentucky would all meet up and trade in their sweet potato slips that were used to grow the plants. Other goods such as tobacco, livestock and guns were also sold or swapped on this day, making March 31 the oldest continuous trade day in the country. But while "tater" meant sweet potatoes to the original celebrants, the current definition of what folks are celebrating on March 31 extends to include starchy tubers, too.
In Benton, Kentucky, where this unofficial national holiday is best known, games, floats, carnival rides, mule pulls, sweet potato-eating contests and "who can grow the biggest potato" competitions are the order of the day. Sweet potatoes are one of the main cash crops of that region, and National Tater Day is a day of celebration there. But why limit it to Kentucky? We all love potatoes, both sweet and not, so let's celebrate this holiday in style with some fries, wedges, mashed potatoes or whatever happens to be your favorite tater dish.
Some Tater Day Ideas
Potatoes can be boiled, steamed, baked, mashed, grilled, roasted, fried, grilled, made into salad, soup, dumplings, pancakes, hash browns or added to stews and casseroles. They're cheap and filling, and widely available. If you want to celebrate this informal spring spud day, you certainly have plenty of options. Consider a potato-based dish like a Spanish omelet or a loaded baked potato. And in the spirit of the original day, think about swapping your usual white potatoes for sweet potatoes, or trying rösti instead of your usual fries.
If you really don't want to cook, head to Beef & Bun Bar-B-Que on Long Point and order a special baked potato. Topping options include butter, bacon, chives, sour cream, barbecue sauce and cheese, or you could go all out and order an "all-the-way" which comes stuffed with beef.
A Few Potato Facts
There are over 100 potato varieties in the United States and more than 4,000 worldwide. Potatoes were shipped from Europe to the colonies in the early 1600s and today they are a large part of the typical American diet. They are full of vitamin C and antioxidants, and they have more potassium than a banana.
So let's all give potatoes some recognition by making them the star of the meal rather than a side dish. Try the following breakfast recipe if you want some inspiration. Served with OJ and coffee, this will start your day off just right.
Recipe: Texan Breakfast Skillet
Here, we are pairing potato with bacon, eggs, salsa, tortillas and cheese for a breakfast that's quick and easy to rustle up. It's a one-skillet meal, so cleanup will be a breeze, too. Throw in anything else you like, such as sliced jalapeños, cilantro or beans, or swap the bacon for sausage. Some people might like sour cream with this, or some sliced avocado on the side. This breakfast recipe serves six Yankees or four Texans.
- 4 ounces chopped bacon
- 1 baking potato
- 8 beaten eggs
- 1/2 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
- 1/2 cup chunky tomato salsa
- 6 warmed corn or flour tortillas (optional but good)
Cook the bacon in a nonstick skillet until golden, then discard nearly all the drippings. Meanwhile, dice the potato into 1/2-inch cubes. Add them to the skillet with the bacon. You can peel the potato first if you want, but you don't have to. Keep cooking, stirring often, until the potato is tender. Now you can crack in the eggs and let them cook, only folding and stirring occasionally, so you end up with quite large egg pieces. Stir in the salsa and warm it through then sprinkle over the cheese. Serve this hot with the warmed tortillas.