Here we are:
Many people visit Canada’s Prince Edward Island because they are passionate about literature. The island, in fact, was the setting of the beloved Anne of Green Gables novels. However, for people less inclined toward tracing the footsteps of the fictional Anne Shirley, the western end of the island offers a more down-to-earth experience, as the town of O’Leary is the home of the Canadian Potato Museum. Open from mid-May to mid-October, the museum showcases the local potato industry and sports the “world’s largest exhibits of potato-related farm machinery,” along with the largest potato sculpture in the world!
“The Big Potato” is about four metres tall and two metres in diameter. It has no gender, no face and no clothes, although it once was dressed for a hockey event.
Beyond its attention-seeking potato and its café, the Canadian Potato Museum celebrates Prince Edward Island’s thriving potato industry and serves fries in a mini version of a fryer basket. It was opened in 1993 as the PEI Potato Museum (and part of a community museum) and grew organically with rebranding, upgrading the Potato Blossom Boutique gift shop and adding the kitchen in 2012.
Inside the museum there are also 14 miniature coffins that hold diseased potatoes to explain different potatoes’ diseases: potatoes in fact battle more than 260 viruses, bacteria, fungis and infections, like bacterial ring rot, the potato wart, blackheart and black leg.
In 2015, CNN named this place one of the world’s top food museums.
Of course, a potato museum requires also potato-themed cafe, a potato-bread grilled cheese and a potato fudge. The fudge is made with mashed potatoes, icing sugar, milk chocolate chips, vanilla and a little butter.
But despite fries, soup and baked potato, one of the most popular menu items are doesn’t made with potatoes at all: visitors litterally devour the museum’s seaweed pie, made from the Irish moss that once fueled the island’s economy.
In the 20th century, locals harvested huge amounts of Irish moss, scientifically Chondrus crispus, from the waters around Prince Edward Island, whether raking it from the shallows on horseback or gathering it from the beaches after storms. Irish moss contains carrageenan, a thickening agent also used in ice cream and toothpaste. But now, a diminished stock and cheaper Irish moss from around the world have shrunk the local industry, and one survivor is the museum’s seaweed pie.
However, it’s more of a cake: it is made with cream thickened with local Irish moss–derived carrageenan tops and it’s finished with a berry sauce of your choosing. As for why the Canadian Potato Museum serves it, they employ the baker for the now-closed Seaweed Pie Café and Irish Moss Interpretive Centre in nearby Miminegash, once the Irish moss capital of the world.