America’s favourite vegetable, the potato, has been getting a pretty bad rap for a while now. Maybe it’s because of the whole "meat and potatoes" thing, but in its own right, the potato is actually quite nutritious. Potatoes are not hard on the waistline at all. A six ounce potato contains only 120 calories and a packs a nutritional punch: low in sodium, high in potassium, and an important source of complex carbohydrates and vitamins C and B6, potatoes are also an good source of minerals. So there!
Potatoes are a member of the nightshade family (along with tomatoes and eggplants) and were thought to be poisonous for thousands of years in Europe. Once Sir Walter Raleigh debunked the poisonous potato superstition in the 16th century, potatoes really took off in Ireland. The Incas, meanwhile, had been cultivating and consuming potatoes for thousands of years, with no dire consequences.
Potatoes can be divided into four basic categories: russet, long white, round white, and round red. Russet potatoes (AKA baking or Idaho potatoes) have an elliptical shape with a rough, brown skin and a texture that is perfect for baking, mashing, and frying. Long white potatoes are also oblong, with a thin, pale gray-brown skin; baby long whites are also known as fingerling potatoes. This variety is best baked, boiled, or fried. Round white and round red potatoes are more commonly known as boiling potatoes, with a waxy flesh that holds up much better than russets and long whites. The Yukon gold potato has a buttery–gold skin and flesh and a moist texture, perfect for mashing. New potatoes are simply young potatoes; they are crisper and have a much thinner skin; they hold up well boiled or roasted, but are particularly suited for use in potato salad.
Heritage varieties of potatoes are gaining more popularity and include such varieties as All Blue potatoes and red-fleshed potatoes. All Blue potatoes range in colour from bluish purple to purple-black; these small potatoes have a dense texture and are good for boiling.
Potatoes are one of the most versatile vegetables in the world. They can literally be cooked almost any way imaginable. Take your potatoes our of exile and try some today!