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.
Potatoes come in all sizes and textures. Stuff baked russets with vegetables and cheese for an easy crowd-pleasing supper or mash them with nonfat milk and garlic for a simple side. Turn boiled red-skinned potatoes into a creamy potato salad. Small, long, flavorful potatoes called fingerlings make an elegant side when simply steamed and tossed with fresh herbs. For something different on the table, try roasting purple potatoes.