What's a meal without potatoes? Mashed, baked, boiled or fried, the beloved potato reigns as the nation's most popular vegetable. Potatoes are a welcome addition to anyone's diet, they are low in fat and sodium, high in fiber and complex carbhydrates. Despite their healthful goodness, potatoes are widely considered fattening food, when in fact it is what you put on them that accounts for most of the calories.
The humble, yet hearty potato has played an important part in the history and economy of Europe and the Americas. The potato we are familiar with today was discovered by the Spanish in Peru. They brought it back to Spain where it was eventually excepted. Later, its popularity spread to France, Russia, Germany and Ireland.
In the 1800s, Irish immigrants brought their treasured family recipes to the United States and planted potatoes in large quanities where they settled. It wasn't long before meat, potatoes and gravy became the favorite all-American dinner.
The potato provides good nutrition and contains a modest number of calories. It is inexpensive and available year round. Its versatility makes the potato a staple in our diet; yet by itself, it is not fattening as many people think. Known as comfort food, our mouth may begin to water at the thought of a bowl of creamy mashed potatoes with gravy, a tantalizing variety of toppings at a baked potato bar, or the aroma of freshly baked potato rolls or bread.
Buying tips..Choose potatoes that are firm, fairly clean and have a smooth skin without any sprouts or blemishes, but not washed. Potatoes that have been washed will spoil quicker. A greenish cast or tint indicates potatoes have been exposed to light during storage, which can cause a bitter taste and may be toxic to some people. Avoid purchasing.(If present, peel and remove all green color before using). Don't buy potatoes with wrinkled skins, sprouted eyes, soft spots, dark spots or cut surfaces.
Storage tips..Store in a well ventilated cool, dry, dark area such as a cool closet or dry basement, (not under the kitchen sink!). At 45 to 50 degrees, potatoes keep well for several weeks. At room temperature or in a warm garage, they will remain at top quality for about a week. Don't store in the refrigerator as the potato starch will begin to change to sugar, and they will turn dark after cooking.
Preparation tip..Soak potatoes briefly to loosen dirt and make scrubbing easier. Scrub gently with a vegetable brush or sponge and trim as needed. Leave the skins on during cooking to conserve the nutrients. If peeling before cooking, keep peeling thin to avoid losing nutrients just under the skin. To prevent peeled potatoes from turning dark, cook immediately or cover with water and add a small amount of ascorbic acid, lemon juice, salt, or even vinegar. Soaking too long in water will cause some loss of nutrients. However, soaking in chilled water for about an hour is often recommended when preparing French fries to remove some of the starch and produce a crisper product.
When making side dishes ahead, use cooked, not raw, potatoes or the mixture may discolor. Or, cook the mixture until almost done, cool and refrigerate. Complete cooking just before serving. Potatoes and mixtures with potatoes do not freeze well due to their tendency to become mushy when thawed and reheated. Baked stuffed potatoes, mashed potato patties and partially cooked French fries can be frozen.
Potato Yields; About 3 medium potatoes equals 1 pound, which in turn will give you;
3-cups peeled and sliced
2-cups French fries
2-1/2 peeled and diced
2-cups potato salad
Nutritional Facts...one medium-sized uncooked potato (about 6 ounces) gives you:
about 110 calories
50% Vitamin C
a good source of fiber, protein and a storehouse of minerals, ( potassium, magnesium, folacin or folic acid, copper and zinc)