“My idea of heaven is a great big baked potato and someone to share it with.”
Potatoes have been revered for centuries. The Spanish Conquistadors must have seen value in this humble tuber when they first carried the potato to Europe from its home in South America in the sixteenth century. From there, the potato traveled across the globe and became a staple crop in many cultures, including Ireland, Russia and even the Nepalese Himalayas and Rwanda in Africa. During the Alaskan Klondike gold rush in the late nineteenth century, gold was traded for potatoes because of their high vitamin C content; in Tristan de Cunha, a remote island in the south Atlantic, potatoes were once the unofficial currency.
Rich in carbohydrate, vitamin C and potassium, the potato often gets a bad rap because it is a high-glycemic food. However, the potato offers some fiber, especially when eaten with the skin on, and has a place in a healthful eating plan.
Potatoes are classified by the texture of their flesh:
Waxy potatoes, like red skins and fingerlings, have moist, dense flesh and keep their shape when cooked, so choose them for salads and soups.
Mealy potatoes (also called baking or floury potatoes), such as russets, have drier, starchier flesh, perfect for baking and mashing.
All-purpose potatoes, like white and Yukon Gold potatoes, are in between the other two kinds, so they function well in most recipes.
Look for firm potatoes that are free of soft spots. Avoid potatoes that have begun to sprout—they have been stored too long.
Potatoes should never be refrigerated. Store them in a cool, dark place with good air circulation, to discourage softening, sprouting and spoiling.
If potatoes begin to sprout during storage but are still firm, remove the sprouts and any eyes that are beginning to sprout before eating.
Potatoes may turn green when exposed to light; peel any green skin away before preparing.
Properly stored, potatoes will keep 10 to 12 weeks.
Small, thin-skinned potatoes and new potatoes should be used within a few days.