According to the International Potato Center, there are more than 4000 varieties of potatoes, and most of them are found in the Andes region of South America. In the United States, there are more than 2000 types of potatoes available for your consumption. These versatile vegetables are a staple of the world’s diet and can be baked, boiled, fried, mashed, or roasted to make tasty and nutritious meals. Here is all you need to know to make sure you are making the most of these tantalizing tubers.
Russet potatoes are long, wide, brown-skinned spuds that are loaded with starch. These potatoes are excellent for baking, as their skin crisps up nicely while leaving a soft, fluffy potato center. They also whip up nicely into dreamy mashed potatoes. Peel, boil, and mash these potatoes with milk, cream cheese, and onion salt for an amazing mashed potato dish that can be kept in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Red potatoes have a waxy texture and stay nice and firm. They are less starchy than russet potatoes, but they contain more sugar. Red potatoes make an excellent choice for potato salads, and are a tasty component of soups or stews. Boil unpeeled, cut potatoes until fork tender, then mix with green onions, celery, and a dressing made of mayonnaise, vinegar, and mustard for a delicious summer salad.
White potatoes have fine, delicate, white or tan skins that make them perfect for mashing without peeling first. Simply wash well, cut into cubes and cover them with about an inch of salted water in a pot. After boiling, drain well and mash with milk or chicken broth. To make an easy, delicious accompaniment to your meals, try cutting them in fourths, sprinkling with olive oil and garlic salt, and roasting in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes until golden.
Yukon Gold potatoes are smooth, golden, and slightly waxy. They have a creamy, buttery flavor and are delicious mashed, grilled, or shredded. They also hold their shape when used in soups or stews. For some great potato-based recipe ideas, check out all the amazing recipe creations at Potatoes USA.
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The eye-popping color of the blue/purple potatoes makes a beautiful side dish on your dinner table when roasted or steamed. Add a dash of apple cider vinegar to the water when boiling these colorful vegetables to help them retain their vibrant hue.
As their name implies, fingerling potatoes are long and narrow. They come in a variety of colors with skin that is red, white, orange or purple and flesh that is orange, yellow, purple, or white. These potatoes are waxy and firm, which means they hold up well in salads, soups, and stews. Scrub them well, slice in half lengthwise, and boil in salted water for about eight minutes, just until tender. Then transfer to a skillet with a dash of olive oil and garlic to sear them until golden brown and crispy.
These cute little potatoes are spuds that are less than 1.5 inches in diameter. The beauty of these little taters is that they contain all the crispy, creamy goodness of their larger counterparts, but are small enough to cook quickly. Try tossing sliced petite potatoes with olive oil, salt, Worcestershire sauce, and rosemary and roasting in your oven for a delicious, savory treat.
Sweet potatoes can be orange, white, or purple. Although the terms “sweet potato” and “yam” are often used interchangeably, true yams are starchier, drier roots grown in Asia, West Africa, and the Caribbean. Sweet potatoes are high in antioxidants, beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin B6. Try cutting them into sticks, tossing them with olive oil and salt, and roasting in the oven for delicious sweet potato fries. For a sweet treat, cut into cubes and roast in the oven with honey and cinnamon.
While boxes of instant potatoes have extra ingredients such as preservatives, vegetable oils, anti-caking agents, and corn syrup, they do contain potatoes. Surprisingly little of the nutritive value of the potato is lost in the process of making boxed instant potatoes. Turning real potatoes into flakes for instant mashed potatoes involves cooking the potatoes, mashing them, dehydrating them, and then breaking them up into flakes. For the best nutrition, when shopping for instant potatoes, check the ingredients first.
Potatoes tend to get a bad rap for being heavy on starch and carbohydrates. But the truth is potatoes have long been a staple of the human diet, and they contain necessary nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, niacin, folic acid, and dietary fiber. Also, potatoes are fat free, cholesterol free, and at 169 calories per one medium russet potato, low in calories. Potatoes are also rich in flavonoids, carotenoids, and phenolic acids, which function as antioxidants to protect your body from the ravages of free radicals.
The skin on a potato will take on a greenish tint if it has had too much light, either sunlight or fluorescent. Potato leaves, stems and roots contain a compound called saponin. When potatoes are exposed to light, they turn green and convert saponin to solanine. While solanine is poisonous in large quantities, there is not enough solanine in one potato to cause harm. If you have a potato with a little green on it, simply cut that part away and discard it. If you notice the produce section of your local grocery store has a lot of green potatoes, ask the produce manager to switch out the inventory to fresher spuds.
When shopping for potatoes, look for clean, firm, smooth spuds with no soft spots, cuts, or bruises. Never buy a potato that is mushy, wrinkled, or already beginning to sprout. While green-tinted potatoes will not poison you, choose to purchase potatoes that are fresh and not discolored from exposure to light. When choosing your produce, give the potatoes a sniff. They should have a clean, earthy fragrance.
Keep your potatoes in a cool, dry, dark place in an open, perforated paper bag. While you may be tempted to store your potatoes in the refrigerator, the cold air can cause the starch in your potatoes to turn to sugar, leaving you with overly sweet, discolored potatoes. If your kitchen is too warm to properly store potatoes at room temperature, your refrigerator might be the best place to keep them, but be sure to let them sit out and come to room temperature before cooking to prevent discoloration. Never store potatoes with apples, as the ethylene gas from apples will spoil your spuds.
If you find a potato in your pantry that has sprouted eyes, don’t throw it away. Instead, start your own potato garden. Simply cut the potato into sections with one or two of the sprouted “eyes” in each section. Leave on a towel to dry overnight. The next day, you can plant the potato chunks in your garden, eyes facing up, in holes four inches deep and 12 inches apart. Water well, and as the plants begin to grow, keep adding more soil around the stems. In three to four months, the leaves should start to yellow, and three weeks after that your potatoes should be ready to harvest.
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If you have planted potatoes, watch for the leaves of the plants to stop flowering. When the foliage turns brown and dries out, cut it down and wait about 10 days to allow the potatoes to finish maturing. On a dry day, when the soil is not wet, carefully dig around the potatoes, being careful not to cut or bruise them. Place your harvested potatoes in a cool, dry area of your home for about two weeks to allow them to cure. This will help them stay fresh longer. After they have cured, store them in a perforated paper bag in a dark, cool area.