Potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosum of the Solanaceae family (also known as the nightshades). The word potato may refer to the plant itself as well as the edible tuber. In the region of the Andes, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species. Potatoes were first introduced outside the Andes region four centuries ago, and have become an integral part of much of the world’s cuisine. It is the world’s fourth-largest food crop, following rice, wheat, and maize. Long-term storage of potatoes requires specialised care in cold warehouses.
The annual diet of an average global citizen in the first decade of the 21st century included about 33 kg (73 lb) of potato. However, the local importance of potato is extremely variable and rapidly changing. It remains an essential crop in Europe (especially eastern and central Europe), where per capita production is still the highest in the world, but the most rapid expansion over the past few decades has occurred in southern and eastern Asia. China is now the world’s largest potato-producing country, and nearly a third of the world’s potatoes are harvested in China and India.
Potato plants are herbaceous perennials that grow about 60 cm (24 in) high, depending on variety, the culms dying back after flowering. They bear white, pink, red, blue, or purple flowers with yellowstamens. In general, the tubers of varieties with white flowers have white skins, while those of varieties with colored flowers tend to have pinkish skins. Potatoes are cross-pollinated mostly byinsects, including bumblebees, which carry pollen from other potato plants, but a substantial amount of self-fertilizing occurs as well. Tubers form in response to decreasing day length, although this tendency has been minimized in commercial varieties.
There are about five thousand potato varieties worldwide. Three thousand of them are found in the Andes alone, mainly in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and Colombia. They belong to eight or nine species, depending on the taxonomic school. Apart from the five thousand cultivated varieties, there are about 200 wild species and subspecies, many of which can be cross-bred with cultivated varieties, which has been done repeatedly to transfer resistances to certain pests and diseases from the gene pool of wild species to the gene pool of cultivated potato species.
Health benefit of potatoes
Potatoes are nutrient-dense, meaning you receive many nutrients for the amount of calories they have. The fiber is half soluble, half insoluble, so it helps to keep you regular and helps to lower cholesterol. And slowing down digestion helps to keep you full longer. Phytochemicals in potatoes include flavanoids and a recently identified compound called kukoamine that appears to help lower blood pressure.
With the exception of vitamin A, white potatoes have just about every nutrient. Did you know potatoes are full of vitamin C? However, since we do not eat potatoes raw, most of the vitamin C is lost due to the heat of cooking. In addition, one baked potato offers about 20 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin B6, which is good news for your heart. They are also very high in potassium, beating other potassium-rich foods. They are a good source of iron and copper, too. In fact, a potato a day is good for your heart, promoting normal blood-pressure levels.
Varieties of potato
|A brown skinned, oblong potato with a white interior, which is one of the most popular potatoes. It has a rough skin with numerous eyes and can grow quite large. The russet is low in moisture and high in starch, making it good for baking, boiling and making French fries. They are sometimes referred to as an old potato or a baking potato. There are two common varieties of Russet potatoes. The most popular variety is the Russet Burbank, which has an oblong shape and medium skin that is light brown in color. It has a white flesh, which bakes up light and fluffy. Another variety is the Russet Norkotah. It is also oblong in shape but has a heavier skin that is more appealing in appearance. It is not as light and fluffy when baked as the Burbank. Russet potatoes are available throughout the year.|
|Red Potato||They are medium sized with thin red skin and white flesh that has a crisp, waxy texture. The flesh can have a pink tint but is generally white. They are good potatoes for boiling, steaming, and roasting. They keep their shape when cooked, which makes them a good choice for dishes that have cooked potatoes in them, such as potato salad, scalloped potatoes, soups and stews. Red potatoes are available throughout the year.|
|Klondike Rose||This red potato is different from other reds in that its flesh is a golden color. It is oval in shape and has smooth red skin. It has a delicious buttery taste and can be used for boiling, baking, steaming, mashing, and frying. When baked the skins turn brown. Klondike Rose potatoes are avavailable throughout the year in well stock supermarkets.|
|Yukon Gold Potato||A variety of potato that has a light yellow skin and a rich buttery flavor. They are excellent for boiling and making mashed potatoes, but are not as good as russet potatoes for baking. They are also more expensive than many common potato varieties, but the flavor compensates for the price. Yukon potatoes are available as a large, mature potato for recipes requiring the larger size or as a small, young creamer potato for creamer recipes or other similar dishes requiring smaller sized potatoes.|
|Creamer Potato||Varieties of potatoes that are harvested in the early stages of its growth, before it matures, in order to keep it small and tender. Creamer potatoes will generally be a gold Yukon or a Red potato that is harvested at a young age, measuring approximately 1 inch in diameter. The yellow or red skin of this potato is waxy and high in moisture while the sweet, tender white flesh contains a lower level of starch, making it an excellent boiling potato. Creamer potatoes can be boiled, baked, fried, or roasted and are excellent as side dishes or for use in potato salads, soups, stews, and casseroles. The common use is for the potato dish known as creamed potatoes, which cooks the potatoes in a cream sauce with peas and onions. A larger version of this potato that usually measures 2 inches in diameter is referred to as a new potato, which is basically the same, except harvested later and thus, larger in size.|
|New Potato||A variety of potato, which is harvested very early in its growth when it reaches approximately 2 inches in diameter. The waxy yellow or red skin of this potato contains a high level of moisture, while its sweet, tender white flesh contains a lower level of starch, making it very suitable for boiling. New potatoes can be boiled, baked, fried, or roasted and are excellent as side dishes or for use in potato salads, soups, stews, and casseroles. A smaller version of this potato is referred to as a creamer potato, which is basically the same, except harvested sooner and thus, smaller in size, measuring approximately 1 inch in diameter.|
|A small, narrow potato (generally 2 to 4 inches in length) that is actually a very young tuber. The potato has a finger-like appearance and a firm texture that varies from moist to dry, with a flavor that ranges from mildly sweet to rich and nutty. Like many other potatoes, the finger potato can be baked, boiled, fried, grilled, roasted, steamed, or sautéed. There are a variety of different finger potatoes available. Also referred to as Fingerling Potatoes.
The Austrian Crescent is a good potato for boiling or steaming, providing a cream colored flesh that goes well in salads or side dishes. This potato may have a slight crescent shape or it may be somewhat straight in appearance.
The Buttercream is a smaller potato with a tan colored skin covering a cream-colored flesh that can be boiled, steamed or baked. It is not considered to be a good potato for salads since the texture is not firm and crumbles easily.
The Russian Banana, native to the Russian region, is tan skinned with a white to cream inner flesh. It can be baked, steamed, or fried to be served as a side dish or salad potato. It provides a rich buttery flavor.
The French Fingerling, which is more plump and oval than other varieties, has a red outer skin covering a moist cream-colored flesh that provides a somewhat nutty flavor. It can be baked, fried, grilled, sautéed, or steamed.
The Purple Peruvian, native to Peru, has a purple outer skin that covers a lavender colored flesh. Since this potato has a firm texture that cooks quickly, it can be baked, steamed, or microwaved for shorter periods of time than the yellow or white fleshed varieties. It is a good potato for salads.
The Ruby Crescent has a finger-like appearance with a ruby colored skin covering a cream colored flesh. This variety is firm textured and well suited for roasting or steaming to be served in salads or side dishes.
|Purple Potato||A smaller oval-shaped potato with a purplish black outer skin and a vivid purple, dense inner meat. The odd colored meat adds a distinctive look to any dish.|
Method Of Cooking Potato
Potatoes are often served as a side dish to meat and poultry, but they are also used as a significant ingredient in many dishes, such as stew, soups, scalloped potatoes, and other casserole type dishes. They are a major ingredient in the Scandinavian flat bread, Lefse. Some varieties are better for specific purposes than others, such as red potatoes, which are best for boiling, and russets, which are best for frying and baking. They are also converted into commercial products, such as potato chips, instant mashed potatoes, canned new potatoes and many frozen products including French fries, hash browns, and stuffed baked potatoes.