Potatoes are a Versatile, Starchy Tuber that Adapts well to Most Flavors.
Potato
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A Potato, (Solanum tuberosum), is in the nightshade plant family. The Potato is a starchy edible tuber, originally from South America, that was domesticated over 8,000 years ago and quickly became a staple crop, along with corn, of the indigenous people. Tomatoes and Peppers, both close nightshade cousins of the Potato, were similarly cultivated in South America. Potatoes are a cool-season vegetable that despite its looks is not a root but a "Tuber," a specialized underground plant energy storage system. 

European Conquistadores first came into contact with Potatoes (and Tomatoes & Peppers) in the 1600’s and exported them to the rest of the world where they have become an important part of the world’s food web. In fact, though Potatoes were not quickly adopted in Europe because of their genetic similarity to the poisonous nightshade plant, potatoes are now the world’s fourth-largest staple food crop after RiceWheat and Corn.

Availability

With greenhouse production, Potatoes are available throughout much of the year in most regions.

Cultivation

Potatoes are fairly difficult to grow because they are susceptible to rots and fungi. In commercial production they also require specialized storage in cold warehouses. There are more than one thousand known varieties of Potato and only a few of them are grown commercially. 

While potatoes are grown commercially in at least 35 states, most potatoes are grown in northern, cooler states. Idaho farmers grow 30% of the U.S. total production and Washington State produces another 20%. Other leading producers are Michigan, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Colorado, and Oregon.

Potatoes are some of the earliest vegetables planted in the North American garden. There are Early PotatoesMid-Season Potatoes and Late Potatoes varieties which can all be planted in March or early April. Planting Potatoes too early in damp, cold soils makes it more likely that seed pieces will rot before they are able to grow. 

Potatoes are normally harvested after the visible vines have died. Because the Potato tubers develop 4 to 6 inches under the soil, a shovel or spading fork is useful for digging potatoes but they should be used as gently as possible. 

New Potatoes, 1 to 2 inches in size, are dug up before the vines die, usually in early summer. 

Late Potatoes varieties are usually dug in August or early September. They can be stored in a cool garage or basement for several weeks in their natural dormancy. They should be stored between 38° and 40°F (with high humidity) for longer periods. They should be checked periodically for spoilage. Don't freeze them because at Temperatures below 38°F Potatoes will suffer internal damage. 

Varieties

Among the many types of Potatoes available certain cultivars are best suited to certain cooking techniques and dishes. Waxy Potatoes that retain their shape are good choices for boiling or frying. Starchy Potatoes that will break down with cooking heat are well suited to mashing or making Twice Baked Potatoes.

There are 100's of varieties of Potatoes. White-skinned (actually very light brown) and red-skinned varieties with white flesh are the most common in home gardens but some  russets and yellow-fleshed types are also grown at home. Home varieties can offer better taste, texture and cooking attributes.

Commercially the Russet Potato is the most produced.

Purchasing

At the store, look for Potatoes with the fewest blemishes, that are firm and have no buds growing from the top.

Storage

Potatoes should be kept cool and dry and dark. In their raw un-peeled form, Potatoes will last 1-2 weeks at room temperature. They will last longer (months) in a cooler environment. 

If raw Potatoes are kept in abundant light, or stored in very cold or very hot places they can develop high levels of toxic Solanin, a naturally occurring alkaloid. If the stored Potatoes have areas of green discoloration, that is from SoIanin. The Solanin can usually be removed by simply cutting out the green toxic areas.

If you have peeled your Potatoes, they should be stored in water in the refrigerator where they can be held for up to 3 to 5 days.

Culinary Uses

To be prepared to be eaten, Potatoes should always be cooked because they contain both Oxalic Acid (interfers with Calcium absorption and can be toxic in large doses) and hemagglutinins (which can disrupt red blood cell functions). Both the Oxalic Acid and hemagglutinins are reduced or neutralized by cooking heat. 

Favorite methods for preparing Potatoes include: Deep FryingPan FryingBakingRoastingStewing and Simmered. The neutral, starchy taste of Potatoes are a perfect backdrop for picking up a wide variety of flavors from spicy to savory.

Just don't cook Potatoes in an un-coated Copper or Aluminum Pot or Pan because the Oxalic Acid will react with the metal ions and turn the foods brown (in a bad way). Anodized or Teflon coated Pots or Pans will work fine but toss out any cooking water when you are done, unless you want a pot full of Oxalic Acid. 

Potato Starch is a Potato derivative product that is Gluten-Free and also used in cooking to thicken sauces, especially those that require higher cooking temperatures and in baking.

Portion Size

Allow 2-4 oz of Potatoes per person.

Substitutes

Sweet Potatoes

Nutritional Value USDA
POTATOES,RAW,SKIN
Amount Per 100g
Calories 58
%Daily Value*
 
0%
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 10mg
8%
Potassium 413mg
4%
Total Carbohydrate 12g
8%
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 0g
Protein 2g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition

Potatoes have fairly good nutritional value which is why they became an important part of the European diet. Potatoes provide Potassium, Vitamins A and C, along with some other vitamins and minerals.

Cooking Potatoes for too long on High Heat can cause high levels of Acrylamide, a potential carcinogen to form.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes