Popular Potatoes

Vincent Van Gogh’s 1885 painting The Potato Eaters portrays a family of five peasants gathered around a table eating potatoes. “I have tried to emphasize that those people eating their potatoes in the lamplight have dug the earth with those very hands they put in the dish, and so it speaks of manual labor, and how they have honestly earned their food“. This was said by Van Gogh in a letter to his brother, Theo.

Potatoes can be a dieter’s secret weapon — if you know how best to prepare them. Keep them away from the deep fryer or high-fat toppings, and they’re excellent choices. On its own, a cooked medium-size potato has only about 200 calories, and it’s very filling. Top it with yogurt and a sprinkling of chives — you’ll never miss the sour cream. Potatoes are rich in protein, iron, potassium and, if you eat the skin, fiber. They also contain glutathione, an antioxidant that may help protect against cancer. Never store potatoes in the refrigerator — it makes them turn dark when cooked. Keep them in a cool, dark, ventilated place. Trim away any green spots before cooking.

Potatoes are available all year. Potatoes should be smooth and well shaped, and not bruised. Do not buy if they have sprouted or have a green tint to the skin. Green potato skins and sprouts contain a toxin called solamine and may be hazardous to your health. Store at room temperature in a dark area and do not refrigerate. Refrigeration may turn a percentage of the starch into sugar. Keep away from heat or cold.

Limitless Possibilities

Is there any end to what we can do with potatoes? Nope, don’t believe there is!

America’s favorite vegetable is not only fat – and cholesterol free, it is also high in vitamin C and potassium, and is an excellent source of fiber with the skin on. Foods rich in potassium tend to keep high blood pressure under control. Another added benefit to eating potatoes is feeling fuller longer which can help keep weight under control. In addition to being nutritious and delicious, potatoes are versatile.

Just one potato offers 21-percent of the Daily Value for potassium. Potassium also helps retain calcium, which is important to build strong bones.

Vitamin C

For vitamin C, think potatoes! Potatoes are one of the leading sources of vitamin C in the American diet. This vitamin is a potent antioxidant that helps stabilize free radicals, which may prevent cellular damage. Vitamin C also produces the collagen that helps hold bone tissue together.

Fiber

One medium potato (5.3 ounces) with skin contains three grams, or 12-percent of the recommended daily intake for fiber. Preliminary studies show that fiber is beneficial for a healthy digestive system and may help reduce the risk of some cancers and possibly heart disease. Consuming adequate fiber and water helps increase satiety between meals.

Antioxidants

Potatoes contain glutathione, an antioxidant that may possibly help protect against some cancers. Per serving, potatoes, along with avocadoes, asparagus, squash, okra, cauliflower, broccoli and raw tomatoes, have the highest glutathione content compared to other vegetables. In a study comparing the overall antioxidant activity of potatoes, bell peppers, onions and broccoli, potatoes ranked second highest after broccoli.

Potatoes can star at the center of the plate with beef, chicken or fish, or on their own as an easy vegetarian meal. Or, mash, bake or microwave potatoes for a tasty side dish. Leave the skins on your spuds for an extra nutritional boost for a wealth of vitamins, minerals and fiber are found in the peel.

Potato Skins

Slices of baked potato skins can be crisped in the oven for a healthful snack. Or try stuffing halved skins with cheese, meat, fish or vegetables. If you wish, mix the filling with the potato pulp.

Potato skins contain an anti-carcinogenic compound called chlorogenic acid. This particular acid helps the fiber in potatoes absorb carcinogens that are found in grilled foods. Eating potatoes with grilled foods is common and important when preserving health and fighting off cancer-causing substances.

Plan ahead. Before you bake the potatoes, prick the skins only where you plan to cut them into slices or halves. Then there won’t be extra holes for the filling to leak through.

When you scoop out the pulp with a spoon, leave a little next to the skin so that the skin won’t burn or tear when recooked.

To store cooked potato skins (filled or not), freeze them on a cookie sheet. Then stack them in freezer bags, seal and keep frozen until you’re ready to use them.

Did You Know?

Inca Indians in Peru were the first to cultivate potatoes in approximately 2500 BC.

Helping Diabetes

potatoesDiabetics can benefit from eating potatoes for several reasons. The vitamin C in potatoes is known for helping regulate sugar levels in the blood. Potatoes also contain complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates must be broken down before being absorbed into the bloodstream.

Picking, Peeling & Cooking Palatable Potatoes

Potatoes should have good rich color and have few eyes. They should be firm, smooth and clean. Avoid green potatoes. They have been exposed to light and are actually “sunburned”, which turns the flavor bitter.

Potatoes can be baked, boiled or fried, and may be used in soups and stews. Try thin slicing potatoes, drizzling with olive oil, sprinkle with seasoned salt and bake. Top baked potatoes with an assortment of vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and beans. Fry potatoes with skins on for a “home made” taste and look.

Use a vegetable peeler to peel potatoes. Sprinkle raw potatoes with lemon juice or apple juice to keep them from browning.

Peeled, cut potatoes will often darken in mintues if not submerged in water or milk. To get them white again, simmer the potatoes in milk for a few minutes.

Store potatoes in a dark cool place to keep them from turning green.

When you purchase a bag of potatoes put an apple in the bag so the potatoes will last without sprouting and wrinkling for about 8 weeks.

If you accidentally over-salt a dish while it’s still cooking, drop in a peeled potato. The potato absorbs the excess salt for an instant. Some swear by this method, others say it’s ineffective. Give a try if in doubt – that’s the only way you’ll know if it works for you.

Flavoring Potatoes

It’s almost an automatic reaction for many of us to grab the salt shaker and sprinkle salt on our potatoes but do think twice and consider trying dill, garlic, onion, paprika, parsley or sage in place of salt – or at least some of the salt you would normally use.

For extra creamy mashed potatoes, stir 4 ounces softened cream cheese into one pound mashed potatoes.

For the best mashed potatoes ever, try using buttermilk and a small amount of the water the potatoes were boiled in. Make sure that the milk and water are still very warm before adding them to the potatoes.

Calm Queasiness

Eating potatoes can calm a queasy stomach due to the vitamin B6 content in the potato’s skin, which is good for eliminating nausea.

Potatoes for Migraines?

An old remedy:  For migraines, slice raw potatoes on a white piece of cotton, sprinkle it with pepper and apply to the forehead for an hour or more .

Potato Juice as an Insect Destroyer

As an insect destroyer the juice of the potato plant is said to be of great value; the leaves and stems are well boiled in water, and when the liquid is cold it is sprinkled over plants attacked with insects, when it at once destroys caterpillars, black and green flies, gnats, and other enemies to vegetables, and in no way impairs the growth of the plants. A peculiar odor remains, and prevents insects from coming again for a long time. Source: The Farm and Household Cyclopedia – circa 1888

The Purple Potato

The purple potato has a royal lineage! In fact, they have long been considered a “Food of the gods”. Seven thousand years ago the purple potato was reserved for Incan kings in their native Peru. The history of the purple potato traces back to the Purple Peruvian, an heirloom fingerling potato. But other purple varieties bred specifically for optimal health benefits are sprouting up today.

purple potato

Purple potatoes contain powerful antioxidants that rival that of broccoli, spinach and Brussels sprouts. Geneticists are cross-breeding potatoes to examine the added health benefits of colored potatoes. Research by the USDA Agricultural Research Service found that potatoes with the darkest colors have more than four times the antioxidant potential of those currently available commercially. One such potato, called the Purple Magesty, has almost twice the amount of anthocyanins of any other produce. Another new variety, the Purple Pelisse, is now more readily available.

Purple potatoes have a subtle nutty flavor and are prepared the same way as other spuds. Try the microwave to best preserve color, though steaming and baking work well, too. Purple potatoes can add a flash of royal color – and nutrition – to your favorite potato dish. Choose firm, fairly smooth spuds, with no signs of sprouting. They store best for up to two months in a paper or burlap bag in a dry dark place if not exposed to sunlight or onions. Clean just before cooking and keep the peel intact for the best boost of color and nutrients.

Sweet Potatoes/Yams

Sweet potatoes and yams are available all year. The skin should be uniformly copper or light tan-colored. Do not purchase if they have white areas or are damaged; this probably means decay. Store in a cool, dry place and do not refrigerate.

If your kettle becomes discolored when boiling fresh sweet potatoes, try rubbing the inside of the kettle with cooking oil or margarine before adding the water and potatoes. Cleanup will be easy!

Yams are less sweet than sweet potatoes and originated in Asia.

Plenty of Potato Facts!

  • The best sweet potato is called a “boniato” or “Cuban Sweet Potato” and has a very light yellow flesh.
  • If you store a boiled potato in the refrigerator for three to five days you will have between 0 to 3 percent of the nutrient value left. Potatoes only store well for one to two days.
  • Sweet potatoes have ten calories per ounce less than yams.
  • French fries will be deliciously golden brown if sprinkled with flour before frying.
  • Ginger root stored with potatoes will help both of them stay fresh longer.
  • A potato will bake faster if the skin is oiled rather than being wrapped in tin foil.
  • Russets make the best mashed potatoes.
  • To make potato salad more quickly, cook the potatoes already diced and peeled.
  • To boil potatoes in less time, remove a small strip of skin from one side. After they are done the balance of the skin will come off much easier.
  • Put a little butter in a kettle of potatoes to keep them from boiling over.
  • When boiling potatoes, they may get a little mushy and be difficult to drain. Try cooking them in an electric deep fryer basket, then just remove and their drained.
  • To keep peeled potatoes white, place them in a bowl of cold water, add a few drops of vinegar, and refrigerate.
  • If you add hot milk to potatoes when you are mashing them it will keep them from becoming heavy and soggy.
  • Baked potatoes should be pricked with a fork to release the steam as soon as they are finished baking. This will keep them from becoming soggy.
  • If you add a teaspoon of baking powder to potatoes when mashing, beat them vigorously, it will make the light and creamy.
  • Old potatoes should have a small amount of sugar added to the water when cooking, to help bring back some of the lost flavor.
  • To keep potatoes white during cooking, add a teaspoon of white vinegar to the water.
  • To re-harden potatoes, place soft raw potatoes in ice water for half an hour or until they become hard.
  • If you go to a buffet and take a serving of mashed potatoes, you will probably have little or no nutrient value left. After approximately 45 minutes its all gone. Best to get them when they are first put out.
  • When you see potato salad with a rich yellow flavor, it has probably been doctored with mustard or if you are unlucky an artificial yellow food color.
  • Americans eat approximately 54 pounds per year, per person.
  • Baking a potato with the skin will retain the highest level of nutrients. Boiling without the skin causes a 30 percent nutrient loss, and when mashed the loss can exceed 75 percent.
  • If you store a boiled potato in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days you will have between 0 to 3 percent of the nutrient value left. Potatoes only store well for 1 to 2 days.
  • Vichyssoise, a cold potato soup, was invented when King Louis XV of France was so worried about being poisoned that he had a number of his servants taste his food before he ate it. As they passed the soup around, it got cold by the time it reached him. He liked it so much that way that he had it served cold thereafter.
  • To shorten the baking time of a potato, insert a nail (saves about 15 minutes), or boil them in salted water for about ten minutes before placing them into a very hot oven.
  • Green potato skins and sprouts contain a toxin called solamine and may be hazardous to your health.
  • To keep your potatoes from budding out, place an apple in the bag with the potatoes.
  • When you store potatoes, place half an apple in with them and they will not sprout. The apple will absorb the moisture before the potato.
  • To peel sweet potatoes easily, take them from the boiling water and immerse immediately in very cold water. The skins will almost fall off by themselves.
  • Bake potatoes in muffin pans so that they will not roll around and be easier to remove from the oven.
  • Brown areas on sliced potatoes mean that they have been exposed to air and light and the vitamin C has been destroyed.
  • The digestive time for a medium potato is approximately two hours.
  • Sweet potatoes contain the same number of calories as white potatoes. However, they contain more vitamin C and three times the beta carotene as white potatoes.
  • For the best mashed potatoes ever, try using buttermilk and a small amount of the water the potatoes were boiled in. Make sure that the milk and water are still very warm before adding them to the potatoes.
  • When peeling potatoes, try using a rubber Finger tip thimble on a few fingers, the ones you want to keep whole.
  • Frozen, flaked, and powdered potato product sales have risen 500 percent in the last 30 years. The less a potato is processed the higher the nutritional content.
  • If you leave the skins on potatoes when cooking they will retain more of their nutrient value. Then remove the skin before serving.
  • The best way to tell the difference between yams and sweet potatoes is to look at the flesh, which should be orange in a sweet potato, not red. Many sweet potatoes are labeled yams by supermarkets.
  • In the last 50 years, Americans are eating 50 percent less fresh potatoes.
  • It is best not to eat potato skins in any form. A number of toxins and possible pesticide residues may be left even after they are cooked and washed. There are very few nutrients actually in the skin, most are just under the skin.
  • The EPA has registered 90 different pesticides for use on potatoes. The FDA laboratories can only detect 55 percent of these. Most of the problem pesticides such as: Chlordane, Aldicarb, Dieldrin and DDT are for the most part in the skin. Removing the skin is the best advice.
  • Potato chips were invented at Saratoga Springs, New York in 1853 when Commodore Vanderbilt complained to his steward that he made his French fries too thick, the steward who was a little put out, sliced some potatoes as thin as he could, placed them in boiling grease and served them. Needless to say the Commodore was delighted.
  • In America the potato was widely appreciated after Thomas Jefferson went to France in the 1780s and gained an appreciation for French cooking. He particularly enjoyed pomme-frites (French Fries). After serving as ambassador to France, Thomas Jefferson brought the recipe for French fried potatoes to America, where he served them to guests at his Monticello home, popularizing French fries in the United States. When he became president, he had them served at White House dinners.
  • Commercial potato chips are cooked in long vats of oil (75 feet long) with the oil being filtered and rarely changed. Production is about 200 pounds an hour. Since the oil is continually kept at 376 degrees, the chips should contain a high percentage of trans-acids (a harmful fat).
  • Fabricated potato chips are made from dehydrated potatoes (Pringles).
  • Potato or corn chips have ten times more fat than pretzels or air popped popcorn (not the microwave type).
  • There are at least 28 flavors of potato chips on the market.
  • There is the equivalent of 2-1/2 pats of margarine in one ounce of potato chips.
  • Potato chips are 61 percent fat.
  • The eyes in a potato are the indents where sprouts grow. You can grow potatoes by chopping up a seed potato into chunks with at least two or three eyes, letting the chunks dry in the sun for twenty-four hours, then planting them.
  • The leaves of the potato plant are poisonous if eaten.

For the greatest gourmet French fries:  Let cut potatoes stand in cold water an hour before frying. Dry thoroughly before cooking. The trick is to fry them twice. The first time, just fry them for a few minutes and drain off the grease. The second time fry them until golden brown.

Potatoes will take food stains off your fingers. Just slice it and rub the raw potato on the stains and rinse with water.

Potato History

red potatoesIn the sixteenth century, while Spanish explorers introduced the potato to Europe, English explorers brought the potato to the British Isles. It then became the principal crop of Ireland. Today, Russia grows nearly 30 percent of the world’s potatoes, more than any other country.

When the Spaniards brought the potato to Europe in the 1570s, Europeans were suspicious of the plant. In part, they viewed it as a food for the poor. Plus, it produced “grotesque” tubers underground and reproduced itself from those same misshapen tubers. In 1596 the Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin assigned the potato to the Solanaceae family – a nasty clan that included the deadly nightshade, henbane, and tobacco herbs long used as poisons, narcotics, and magic.

During colonial times, New Englanders – convinced that raw potatoes contained an aphrodisiac that induced behavior that shortened a person’s life – fed potatoes to pigs as fodder.

Did you know?

Store bought potatoes are frequently treated with a sprouting inhibitor. If you plant them, they may not grow.

In India, McDonald’s offers the McAloo Tikki burger, a spicy vegetarian patty made of potatoes and peas.

Real Potato Chips

Cut potatoes in half crosswise exposing two flat surfaces. Use a wide potato slicer and cut paper thin slices. Place individual slices on an oiled cookie sheet. Brush the tops of the potatoes with a pure vegetable oil, preferably a corn oil. Bake at 450 degrees approximately ten minutes or until golden brown. Finally, place the chips in a brown paper bag with a small amount of sea salt (1/4 teaspoon per potato) and shake. Low fat and crunchy.

Potato and Pepper Frittata Recipe

  • 5 ounces (about one small) yellow onion
  • 6 ounces sweet roasted peppers
  • 1 cup egg substitute
  • 2 tablespoons skim milk
  • 8 ounces (about 1-1/4 cups) refrigerated hash brown potatoes
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Trim the onion and cut it in half lengthwise, then slice it thin (about 3/4-cup). Drain and thinly slice the roasted peppers (about 1/2-cup).

Preheat a 10-inch nonstick skillet with an oven-safe handle over high heat. In a large bowl, whisk the liquid egg substitute and the milk together until frothy. Stir in the onion, roasted peppers, and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.

Garlic Red Potatoes Recipe

  • 1 pound red potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Three medium garlic cloves
  • Salt

Wash potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet large enough to hold the potatoes in one layer. Add garlic and saute until about one minute. Add potatoes and saute until golden on all sides, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with a little salt and cover. Reduce heat and cook gently for about ten minutes, or until soft, tossing and stirring from time to time. Remove garlic and season with a little more salt and pepper to taste.

Blender Potato Soup

  • 1/2 cup extra light olive oil
  • 3 cups celery, chopped
  • 1-1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1-teaspoon fresh minced garlic
  • 1-quart of chicken broth
  • 3 cups peeled and diced russet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

In a large saucepan, heat oil. Add celery, onions and garlic; saute until tender. Stir in remaining ingredients except 1/3-cup parsley and cheese; bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Pour half of mixture into blender; puree until smooth. Set aside. Pour the remaining soup into blender; blend until coarsely chopped. Combine both mixtures. Ladle soup into bowls; garnish with remaining parsley and cheese.

Potato Lore

In 1710, William Salmon, a popular and prolific author, claimed that the cooked tubers of potatoes stopped “fluxes of the bowel” and could cure tuberculosis and rabies. He also reiterated a long held belief about plants that reproduced themselves below ground: the potato would “increase seed and provoke lust, causing fruitfulness in both sexes.” These claims joined other folk-medicine beliefs: a peeled potato in the pocket could cure a toothache, a dried potato hung around the neck would cure rheumatism, and potato juice rubbed on warts would make them disappear.

To herb doctors, potatoes were not generally taken internally as a medicine but were thought to have some medical value. Slaves were known to carry potatoes to relieve pain and cure aches.

In the pre-Civil war days, potatoes were also carried in pockets for rheumatism. There is no evidence that wearing potatoes or carrying them, other than the power of belief, would have had any medical value.

Potato Poetry

When elm leaves are as big as a shilling
Plant potatoes, if to plant them you’re willing.
When elm leaves are as big as a penny,
You must plant potatoes if you mean to have any.

– Northern England traditional lore

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