The edible tuber of a plant from the nightshade family. “Russet” or “Idaho” potatoes have a long, rounded shape and many eyes. The less starchy medium-sized “round whites” and “round reds” are also called “boiling potatoes.”
Potatoes are America’s most used and favorite vegetable. They can be boiled, baked, fried, and microwaved, steamed, roasted, mashed, and placed in salads, with or without the peel.
Potatoes are a perennial plant, and the fourth largest crop grown. Potatoes have a high water content as well as starch.
The potato originated in South America, spanning back to the early 1400’s. There are 200 types of wild potatoes species, and potatoes are often used as feed for animals on farms.
The first potato planted by Luther Burbank was in Idaho in 1836. Potatoes are grown commercially in at least 35 states in the USA, the majority of them being grown in Idaho and other places such as Washington, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Colorado, and Oregon.
The common types of potatoes available in North America are Russet, Burbank, yellow fin, red gold, German butterball, Yukon gold. They come in a wide variety of colors, sizes and textures, each having specific uses and culinary applications.
Russets are the most commonly used, primarily because they are the commercial French Fries found in supermarkets and fast food chains. Other common uses for potatoes in the United States and Canada include potato salad, mashed potatoes, potato croquettes and commercially, potato bread and of course, potato chips.
Some potatoes are very waxy while others are dry and starchy.
Potatoes are native to South America, where they grow wild. Varieties of wild potatoes grow throughout the Americas. First brought back to Europe in the second half of the 16th Century, records show them in the Canary Islands as early as 1567. Sir Francis Drake introduced them to the British Isles in the last quarter of that century, while Spanish Conquistadors brought them to Spain a few years earlier. Records show trade in potatoes between the Canary Islands and Holland by 1568.
Though not native to Europe, they became part of the regular agriculture of places like Ireland and Spain, Poland and Russia. A potato blight (cholera) prompted millions of Irish to migrate from Ireland to the US, Canada and Britain in the 1840’s. The lack of potatoes had ruined the national diet and killed tens of thousands by both cholera and starvation.
Potatoes are also used for non-eating purposes, such as producing starch for pressing clothes.
Season: available year-round
How to store: Store potatoes in a cool, dark place with ventilation and they will keep for weeks. Do NOT store them in the refridgerator or they will turn brown and have develop a strange flavor. Aim for 45-50 degrees F, warmer and the potatoes will sprout and shrivel. Light causes potatoes to turn green, which imparts a bitter taste. You can store an apple with a potato to help prevent it from sprouting.
How to prepare: Scrub exterior gently if they are to be cooked unpeeled. bake, boil, deep-fry, fry, puree, roast, steam, stew
Matches well with: bacon, basil, butter, caviar, cayenne, celery root, chard, cheese, chervil, chives, cream, creme fraiche, dill, fennel fenugreek, garlic, ham, horseradish, kale, leeks, lovage, mint, mushrooms, mustard, nutmeg, olive oil, olives, onions, paprika, parsley, pepper, pork, salt, savory, smoked salmon, sour cream, squash, sweet potatoes, thyme, turnips