The potato reached the United Kingdom towards the end of the 16th century and was being grown in London by 1597. The new crop established itself rapidly in Ireland but less so in England and Scotland.
The potato's moment in the UK came later, during the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, when the rise of towns - and the new working class - created demand for cheap, energy-rich, non-cereal foods. The rest is history. By 1948, production in England and Wales was peaking with almost 400 000 hectares under potato.
Geographic distribution of potato cultivation (Ware, Seed) in Great Britain (Source: Potato Council)
Since 1960, the harvested area has shrunk by half, and the number of registered potato growers from 70 000 to just 3 000. But the UK still ranks No. 11 among world potato producing countries, recording a 2007 harvest of 5.6 million tonnes and average yields exceeding 40 tonnes per hectare.
With annual per capita potato consumption of 102 kg, demand for potato exceeds domestic supply: in 2005, the UK imported more than 1.2 million tonnes (raw equivalent) of processed potato products. (Source: International Year of the Potato)