How to Select, Store, and Use Potatoes
Quick… What vegetable was the first food plant to travel from earth into space, is among the most environmentally friendly, and is used to brew alcoholic beverages such as Akvavit and Vodka?
You’re right – potatoes!
Originating in South America sometime between 3000 BC and 2000 BC, potato plants were the first food plants to travel into space with the crew of the space shuttle Columbia. They are easy to grow, are environmentally friendly, and have long been a staple in many cultures’ diets. Currently, China, Russia, Poland, India, and the United States are the main potato producers.
These underground roots or tubers are quite nutritious – filled with potassium, vitamins C and B6, fiber, iron, calcium, antioxidants, and more. Sweet potatoes have a slightly higher nutrient count than white potatoes and are slightly lower on the carbohydrate scale. Medical and dietary professionals state that the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants in potatoes can help lower blood pressure, promote heart health, help with weight management and build cells throughout the body.
With over 200 varieties sold in the United States, it’s fun to find and experiment with those that are lesser known. Farmers’ markets are good places for locating new potato varieties. When selecting potatoes, choose those that are heavy, very firm, and with relatively smooth skin. Avoid those with soft spots, cuts, gouges, or sprouts.
For the longest-term storage, keep unwashed potatoes in a cool, dark place (ideally between 50° – 65°) and avoid heat and humidity. When stored in a cool environment, potatoes will last several months. If stored in an area with a warmer temperature, use within a few weeks.
Other storage tips:
- Potatoes need air flow, so placing them in a basket or colander away from other produce is desirable. If placed near ripening fruits and vegetables, potatoes tend to sprout quickly.
- It is best not to refrigerate potatoes as it will turn their starch into sugar and affect cooking quality.
- Do not freeze raw potatoes. Freezing will break down the structure, turn them brown or black and make them unusable.
- Partially cooked potatoes can be frozen.
Once raw potatoes are washed and cut, place them into cold water until ready to cook. If exposed to air, the cut potatoes will turn brown. Use cut potatoes as soon as possible, and definitely in less than 24 hours.
Cooked potatoes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to one year.
Before using potatoes, it’s important to give them a gentle scrub in cool water. A vegetable brush or washcloth works well for removing any attached dirt. Once cleaned, potatoes can be prepared in a variety of ways – roasted, boiled, baked, mashed, or least healthy, fried. They are commonly used in soups, stews, curries, salads, as a side dish or even a main entrée.
Potatoes make a great substitute for gluten products. Some ideas include:
- Using potato slices or planks as a base for nachos, bruschetta, or pizza
- Making spirals to use in place of pasta
- As a thickening agent (especially dried potato flakes) in stews or gravies
To determine the best use for a specific potato variety, they are categorized as follows:
- Starchy – high in starch, low in moisture. This makes them have a fluffier, more absorbent texture which means they generally do not hold their shape well.
- Waxy – low in starch and higher in sugar and moisture. They generally have thinner skins and tend to hold their shape well.
- All-Purpose – somewhere in between starchy and waxy. They can hold their shape but are also fairly fluffy and absorbent.
||Mashed, Baked, Fried
|Sweet Potatoes and Yams
||Baked, Steamed, Boiled, Grilled, Mashed, Pureed, Spiralized
|Roasted, Boiled, Steamed, Soup, Stew
|Roasted, Sautéed, Boiled, Steamed, Baked, Mashed, Pureed
|Roasted, Boiled, Steamed, Soup, Stew, Baked, Mashed|
What is your favorite recipe using potatoes? Share it with us in the comments section.
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