It has different names, “Spud”, “Tater”, “Potato”, whatever it’s called, however its cooked we love it all the same. I don’t think I know anyone who hates this vegetable. This root vegetable has been around for a long time and has spread everywhere.
It was said the potatoes were first domesticated in 5000 BC in region we now know as modern day Peru and northwestern Bolivia. Since then, it has travelled far and wide becoming a staple vegetable in many countries. Some close relatives of this spud were also cultivated in the Andes region of South America.
It then traveled to Europe in the 16th century by the Spanish with their conquest of the Inca Empire. It wasn’t popular in Europe when it was first introduced but it eventually caught on and even played a pivotal role in the 19th century European population boom.
In fact the word “potato” stemmed from the Spanish word “patata”. According to the Royal Spanish Academy, this Spanish name was the combination of how certain indigenous tribes in Peru called it. In Taino, it was called “batata” while in Quechua it was called “papa”. Put them together and what do you get? “Patata”!
Potato became so ingrained in the culture and life of Europe that even the famous painter, Van Gogh, used it as a subject in his 1885 painting “The Potato Eaters”.
It was introduced by Spanish sailors to ports all over the world. Until today, they are considered a staple food in many countries all over the world and play an important role in the world’s food supply. Rapid expansion in production is was seen in Asia specifically China and India in the last few decades. In fact, in 2018, these countries are the overall leading producers.
Okay, let’s get to the root of the matter, I know you’re wondering how it came to be called “spud”? Initially, spud was referred to the digging tool that was used to dig the hole needed to plant the root crop. Somehow, the name stuck ever since.
Did you know that there are other uses for potatoes other than as food? Sit back and be amazed on some of their potato-bilities:
they contain a certain amount of energy which you can harness using wires. They can light up a bulb or a small digital clock. It’s not a replacement for your generator but not all vegetables can have this on their resume.
Eco-Friendly Plastic Substitute
The starch from potatoes is perfect in producing biodegradable utensils and dishes. This super spud can literally save the world.
This tater contains acid that eats rust removing it from any metal surface. Move over WD40!
Industrial companies producing oil, textile, and paper use their starch content as well as their adhesive capabilities which are said to be even stronger than glue.
Types of Potatoes
There are about 4,000 potato varieties, but only few are commercially available. For purposes of cooking, they can be group into 3 major types which is based on their cooked texture and how they are used in the culinary world.
These are high in starch and low in moisture. Absorbent and fluffy when cooked, this makes them ideal for baking, frying, boiling, and mashing. Some potatoes belonging to this type are : Russets, Idahos, a number of yams and sweet potatoes.
These holds their shape when cooked, has smooth thin skin, and are low in starch, high in sugar and retains more moisture. They are best for boiling, roasting, gratin, and potato salads. French Fingerling and Red Bliss are some potato variety that fall in this type.
Yukon golds are an example of this versatile variety. They have high starch, falling just a little behind Starchy potatoes. They are have the texture and moisture of both Starchy and Waxy potatoes which makes them perfect for any type of dish.
How to properly store potatoes at home
Since these taters are so delicious and versatile, you’d probably want to have a constant stash in your kitchen. They can last for a long time if stored properly at your home. Here are some tips :
- Store only potatoes with no green sprouts on them and any damage to its skin.
- Give them good ventilation. Place them in a container which can make this possible like a cardboard box, mesh bag, or basket. Don’t leave them in the plastic bag, they won’t be able to breathe.
- Store them in a cool, dark and humid place. Don’t put them in the refrigerator.
- One rotten potato can spoil the rest, so get rid of potatoes that are soft, have shriveled skin, or have green sprouts on them.
Health Benefits of Spuds
Just in case you need more convincing on consuming these taters, here are some benefits it can give you:
- Good for the heart – being a good source of Potassium, spuds help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. It also has Vitamin C and fiber which lowers blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Boosts our immune system – rich in antioxidants , they slow down the aging process and protects you against cancer.
- Good for your bones – being rich in iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, and zinc help build and maintain bone health.
- Good for the Skin – the iron and zinc in potatoes are crucial in the production of collagen. That combined with their innate vitamin C, makes them really good for your skin.
How to cook potatoes
Potatoes can be cooked in probably in any cooking method known to man since the invention of fire. Bake them, Broil them, or Fry them, they’ll turn out delicious. Here are some simple recipes for potatoes from FoodNetwork.com that you can try at home!
Have them solo or as a side to your favorite meat dishes any time of day!