1.The humble potato is of course America's most popular root vegetable, outpacing all its closest rivals by a wide margin, accounting for 15 percent of all vegetable farm sales receipts. An impressive 44 billion pounds of potatoes are harvested each year in the United States, and Americans consume an average of 46 pounds of fresh potatoes, 55 pounds of frozen potato products, and 17 pounds of potato chips per person each year.
Tastes have evolved, however, as consumers move away from fresh products toward processed ones, something for which potatoes are well-suited. For example, Vox reports that the 42 pounds of fresh potatoes eaten per person is a mere half of what it was in the 1960s, when Americans ate 81 pounds annually.
Carrots are the next most popular root vegetable in the States, although they’re only number 7 on the USDA’s list of most popular vegetables. They’re eaten at an estimated rate of 29 carrots per American per year, according to the Produce for Better Health Foundation. This works out to approximately 8.5 pounds of fresh carrots per person annually, as well as 0.7 pounds of frozen carrots.
One marketing group states that baby-cut carrots have led the surge: “Baby-cut carrot products have been the fastest growing segment of the carrot industry since the early 1990s and are among the most popular produce items in the supermarket aisle.”
3. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a distant third, with 3 billion pounds harvested in the U.S. in 2015. This is an impressive 80 percent increase between 2000 and 2014, and annual per capita consumption has grown to 7.5 pounds.
Pumpkin is way behind sweet potatoes in terms of popularity, but it still squeaks in ahead of squash. Pumpkin production has dropped considerably in the past year, from 1.3 billion pounds in 2014 to 753 million pounds in 2016. The USDA Economic Research Service says, “Production dropped over 40 percent from 2014 largely due to a drop in acreage planted and harvested in Illinois.” Illinois is one of the 6 states that produces the majority of U.S. pumpkins; others are Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, New York, and Michigan.
Finally there is squash. Squash is primarily eaten fresh at an average quantity of 4.4 pounds per person each year (as of 2009). Interestingly, the U.S. imports the most squash of any country in the world, with 95 percent of its squash coming from Mexico. Perhaps there is potential for developing more of a domestic industry?