Where are potatoes from?
Potatoes are a member of the Solanaceae family and are related to tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and the rest of the deadly nightshade family. Potatoes grow best in cool-temperate climates although they are originally from South America. Thousands of varieties exist and many species and have been grown in Peru and Bolivia for over 8000 years. They were brought over by the Spanish in the late 1500s to Europe although they didn't become popular until the 1800s. The UK grows around 80 varieties commercially and many more by enthusiastic gardeners. Generally speaking all of Real Foods' potatoes are grown organically in the UK. If you'd like to confirm the country of origin please do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll double-check where we're sourcing them from this week!
What do potatoes look like?
Potatoes are a tuber, they're an enlarged underground stem. Each plant produces multiple tubers that can be round, oval or oblong and usually come in red or white varieties. if tubers are exposed to light they will turn greenery to sprout. So if you store potatoes in a light, warm place? You're looking at green potatoes with green sprouts. That green is a toxin and needs to be cut off before eating. The best way to avoid this is to store your potatoes in a dark, chilled place. The pantry is a popular choice, you can also get potato bags to keep them dark. For long term storage you want about 4 degrees Celsius ideally, for storing prior to cooking you need somewhere between 7 and 10 degrees Celsius.
And on the inside of a potato?
Textures vary – a floury texture is good for mashing or baking, whereas a waxy texture is better for potato salads or steaming and eating whole. Floury (or mealy as they are sometimes known) have more starch then their waxy friends. Waxy potatoes have around 16-18% starch, whilst floury potatoes are around 20-22%.
Charlotte Potatoes are pale yellow and cook to a pale honey shade, they are great for salads, although as they keep their shape well they're also successful as a sautéed or roast potato. Jersey Royal Potatoes are a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) like champagne, if they're not grown in Jersey in their fabulous soil and conditions, then they're not a Jersey Royal! They are famous for their flavour as new potatoes. Colleen Potato is a waxy potato, suitable for boiling but also popular for baking or for chips. Sante Potatoes are also good all-rounders, but they're best as a baked potato, simply rub with olive oil and sea salt, pop in the oven and appreciate! Amarosa Potatoes have a deep red colour and are brilliant for wedges as they keep their colour through cooking, also great for grilling, baking and roasting.
What do potatoes do?
Potatoes are a surprising source of vitamin C (8mg per 100g). Potatoes also contain potassium, fibre, copper, tryptophan, manganese and the B vitamins. They have alkalising and anti-inflammatory properties helping to detoxify and balance acidity in the body and relieve the inflammation and pain of ulcers. A natural sedative (from the tryptophan), they also encourage healthy blood circulation and may relieve the pain associated with arthritis. The skin contains chlorogenic acid with can help prevent cell mutation.
Potatoes contain glycoalkaloids which reduce the production of certain cancer cells. They contain low levels of natural benzodiazepines which act as sedatives, anticonvulsants and muscle relaxers. Red skinned potatoes contain anthocyanins - which are antioxidants that have been linked to good heart health.
Potatoes contain alkaloids which make them unsuitable for eating raw, although you can of course, but you’re advised not many and never when they are green skinned. You can get quite ill from the toxins in raw potatoes so it’s best avoided, lightly steaming or baking potatoes is the healthiest approach.
Now you know all about potatoes.... here's how to use them!
You can juice potatoes; it is thought to be excellent at removing stains from silk and woollens! It is also an alkali drink juice and is used to treat gastritis, rheumatism colitis, gastric and intestinal ulcers, due to its anti-acid and healing properties.
Try steaming new potatoes, adding a handful of wild garlic and a slug of oil and crush them together for a simple, tasty side-dish.
Cold, pre-cooked potatoes particularly with added vinegar have a lower glycaemic index, or add this Bombay Potatoes spice mix to give yourself an easy, yet tasty dish with added spice.
Potato starch is used for adding to stews and sauces for thickening. Root starches such as potato are added to cooking at the end to give a silky texture and help thicken. It's widely used for gravies, needing less cooking time than cornflour to absorb the flavours. Potato Starch is brilliant for no-flour sponges giving a light, airy texture. it can also be used for dusting before deep-frying. Have a look at our article on how to make your own pure potato flour and the differences between it and potato starch flour.
Potatoes are very popular for crisps, see our range here.
If you're looking for more inspiration, have a look at our potato recipes here. Try gnocchi, vegan mashed potato or a tasty potato layer bake.
By Kim Betney