5 Fun Facts You Didn’t Know About Potatoes

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It’s WEEK1 of my new Periscope series, and I picked POTATOES? Could I have picked a more boring ingredient to start out with? Potatoes are not boring at all! They’re a comfort food, and a staple part of the diet in many cultures. They are delicious and extremely versatile to cook with. You can boil them, bake them, fry them, roast them, steam them, bake them into bread, make pancakes and make gnocchi. YUM! They are also America’s most used vegetable (potatoes, tomatoes and corn are in the top 3).

Want to learn some fun facts about potatoes? Here goes! 5 things you probably didn’t know:

1) Potatoes are in the Roots & Tubers Family

Roots and tubers include vegetables like sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips and radishes—they all grow below ground. The difference between roots and tubers is that tubers, like potatoes, sprout shoots from the “eyes”. You can plant the sprouted potato in the ground and a new potato plant will grow. You can’t do that with a carrot. The sprouts, however, are considered toxic and should be removed before cooking—but once removed you can still eat the rest of the potato. It should be firm to the touch; otherwise it’s a bit past its prime.

2) Potatoes are on the “Dirty Dozen” List

The “Dirty Dozen” is a list of fruits and vegetables that you should try to buy organic, if possible. Potatoes are one of the vegetables on that list. Since they grow in the ground, they absorb the pesticides from the dirt. According to a New York Times article (link below), “A 2006 U.S.D.A. test found 81 percent of potatoes tested still contained pesticides after being washed and peeled, and the potato has one of the the highest pesticide contents of the vegetables tested.”

Gross! Potatoes are probably the #1 vegetable I try to buy organic whenever possible. Or from the farmer’s market where I know my farmer and can ask questions about how they grow their potatoes and what they use in the soil.

3) There are More Than 4,000 Varieties of Native Potatoes

Worldwide, there are over 4,000 varieties (mostly found in the Andes) and more than 100 varieties are sold in the US. So much more than what you typically see in a grocery store! Of those many varieties, there are 3 main types:

  • Starchy Potatoes
    • High in starch, low in moisture, fluffy texture
    • Common type: the Russet potato
    • Absorb butter well, but don’t hold their shape as well when cooking
    • Ideal for baking, French fries & gnocchi
    • Not as great for casseroles, potato salad or gatin (since they don’t hold their shape)
  • Waxy Potatoes
    • Lower starch content, thinner skin
    • Buttery taste, creamy texture
    • Common types: new potatoes/fingerlings
    • Keep their shape well during cooking
    • Ideal for roasting, boiling, in potato salads and in soups and stews
  • All-purpose
    • Medium starch content
    • Common type: Yukon Gold, Red-skin potatoes
    • Versatile and can be used in just about any recipe

4) Don’t Store Potatoes in the Fridge or Near Onions

If you store potatoes in the fridge, the starch content in the potato will turn to sugar and give them a bitter taste. If you store a potato near an onion, the 2 vegetables will give off gases that cause them both to go bad faster. But, storing an apple near a potato will supposedly prevent it from sprouting. Crazy, right? So where should you store potatoes? In a cool, dry, dark, ventilated place (preferably not too hidden away so you don’t forget about them!). And perhaps with an apple—I haven’t tried this myself, but it’s worth a shot. Potatoes usually keep for up to 2 weeks when stored properly. If your potatoes sprout, remember not to eat the sprouts. Simply remove the sprouts and any bruises before cooking. Or plant the sprouted potato and grow your very own potato plant!

5) Potatoes are Not THAT Bad

Yes, they are the Godfather of French fries, but it’s the stuff that we add to them that makes them “bad”. If you fry your potatoes in lots of oil or load a baked potato with cheese and sour cream and bacon or top your mashed potatoes with tons of butter or cream cheese, it’s not the potato itself that’s high in calories, it’s all those add-ons. One medium potato is about 163 calories, according to a simple Google search. Yes, they are a starch, and yes, they are a carb, so they might not be the right choice for everyone’s diet. But potatoes are a complex carbohydrate that can provide sustained energy (thanks belowthefork.com!) and the skin is full of fiber. Instead of peeling the skin, scrub it clean under cold water, and leave it on to get the extra fiber. Sweet potatoes are a great substitute and considered a “good carb,” but white potatoes offer plenty of nutrients too. Sources say they have more folate and potassium than sweet potatoes. {Disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist—I’m simply passing along some ingredient intel. You have to do what is right for your diet. Every individual is different. Life is all about moderation and balance. Check out the resources below for more information.}

Want to learn more about potatoes? Follow me on Periscope @dabblingchef to catch me live. Tomorrow I’ll be covering some simple cooking tips, Wednesday, we’ll make some potato recipes and much more! Watch a replay of today’s broadcast here: https://katch.me/embed/v/f728d6b5-8311-331e-85ef-4a694ebdbfc2?sync=1

For more great info, here’s a list of the resources I used to put this article together:

COOL RESOURCES TO CHECK OUT:

http://www.thekitchn.com/potato-varieties-64061

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/02/types-of-potatoes_n_4877050.html

http://www.rd.com/food/recipes-cooking/potatoes-101-a-guide-to-the-most-common-varieties-2/

SOURCES:

Williams Sonoma Cooking from The Farmer’s Market Cookbook (will be featured in my broadcast on Thursday, so stay tuned! NOTE: I am not being paid to include it here.)

http://www.organicnation.tv/blog/dirty-dozen-why-to-always-buy-organic-potatoes.html

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=48

http://www.food.com/about/potato-106

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/potatoes-good-carbs-7866.html

http://www.livestrong.com/article/520948-carbohydrates-in-sweet-potatoes-vs-white-potatoes/

http://supplementsos.com/nutrition-stats/most-consumed-foods/most-eaten-vegetables-usa/

http://www.today.com/health/spud-fit-man-has-lost-22-pounds-goal-eating-nothing-t71051

http://cipotato.org/potato/facts/

http://www.potatogoodness.com/all-about-potatoes/potato-types/

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2 Comments

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  1. 1
    Meridith Oram

    Potatoes aren’t boring…they’re delicious! So many people knock the starches in potatoes, but they’re an excellent complex carb with the added fiber you need to have sustainable energy throughout the day. That’s why they’re best eaten at breakfast. Keep up the great info! 🙂

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