Ingredient of the Week: Potatoes

Potatoes are one of the foods that throughout history have meant the difference between life and death for whole nations. The delicious tuber comes from South America but can truly be said to be a global food. Because of their high nutrient content, potatoes have been cultivated for hundreds of years and thanks to hybridization, today there are over one thousand different types of potatoes.

Nutritional Facts

Potatoes contain some protein, 2 g of it per 100 g serving, but its main nutrient is carbohydrates, of which it has 17.47 g per 100 g. These carbs include mostly starch but also some fiber, which, as we know, is good for you. The starchy aspect of potatoes may cause some weight-conscious people to shun them but as with many things, it’s all about proportions (or in this case, portions) and what you combine them with. If you roast and boil them rather than frying, and if you combine them with a salad instead of a huge steak, the starch will do its job, which is supplying your body with energy, rather than adding inches to your waistline.

Potatoes also contain vitamins and minerals, like all other plants. These are mostly vitamin C, of which 100 g of spuds have 24% of the recommended daily dose, and B-group vitamins. So, potatoes are not just carbs, you see, they are also a healthy foodstuff that’s the main ingredient in a veritable multitude of dishes from around the world. If you want to learn more about the health benefits of potatoes, click here.

Popular Dishes

Potato salad, mashed potatoes and, of course, French fries, are all dishes that probably everyone has heard about and tried at least once, but they are by no means the only forms that potatoes can take. Here are some great potato recipes you may want to try:

Potato Dauphinoise
Potato Pancakes
Perfect Roast Potatoes
French Potato Salad
Scalloped Potatoes
Cottage Pie
Irish Beef Stew

Preps & Cooking Tips

Potatoes are easy enough to handle, they are the opposite of delicate. Make sure the ones you will be using are firm and with no buds. Soft, wrinkled potatoes can sometimes be found at the far end of the drawer or box where you keep your spuds, and you might add them to a stew if they have no other problems but if they’re very wrinkled just throw them in the bin.

There are potato types that are best for roasting and others that are best suited for fries. Russets, for example, have a high starch content, which makes them great for baking and for mashes. Yellow potatoes, like the Russian Banana (yes, that’s its name), are more waxy than starchy, and are the perfect choice for steaming and frying. For more info on the different potato types and their best uses, click here.

Shopping & Storage

Once you’ve decided which type of potato you need for the dish you have in mind, the only thing to watch out for when shopping are the wrinkling potatoes, (as already mentioned,) and green spots. Green spots are accumulations of a chemical called Solanine, which is toxic and although not deadly, can cause some pretty unpleasant symptoms such as nausea and stomach ache. To avoid having to cut off half a potato because it’s gone green, store the spuds in a cool and, most importantly, dark place, because Solanine accumulates when the potatoes are exposed to too much direct light.

Little (un)Known Facts

The popularity of potatoes and the ease of growing them have even been demonstrated in space, when Potatoes were successfully grown aboard the Columbia space shuttle twenty years ago. Another fact you may or may not know about potatoes is that they are cousins of tomatoes. This could be the reason why the two go so well together. And if you’re wondering which country is the biggest potato grower, you might be surprised: it’s China, followed by India.