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To many, potatoes are a comfort food and a staple of a great home-cooked dinner. It is a good thing they can be cooked by any cooking method desired.
Potatoes are generally divided into two categories – waxy or floury. Waxy are more solid than floury potatoes and hold their shape when boiled, but do not mash well. They are particularly suitable for baked and layered casseroles. If you are unsure of the variety of potato you have (waxy vs. floury), mix one part salt to 11 parts water in a pot and add the uncooked potato. The floury variety tends to sink to the bottom of the pot, while a waxy one will float. Ralph’s Farm Market offers the following texture varieties to please everyone’s palate:
Red Potatoes consist of less starch and more sugar. This makes them stickier and excellent for roasting, boiling, as well as all-around favourites for potato salad and maybe au gratin (a hearty casserole of potatoes layered with onion baked with a simple cheese sauce).
The hearty Russets are characterized by coarse, netted brown skin with many ‘eyes’ and white flesh. A baking potato that may also join a roast, be fried or mashed. In fact, since they are a high starch potato, mashed potatoes become light and fluffy. A recent study showed that Russets are actually high in antioxidants – encouraging since it is the most popular potato in North America. Also known as the Idaho or baking potato, most are grown in the Northwest, and they are available year-round.
White or White Rose
Most readily available spring through summer. Long whites are oval-shaped, contain a medium starch level, and have thin, light tan skin. This all-purpose variety has a firm, creamy, almost waxy texture when cooked, and hold their shape well. When freshly dug, they are thin-skinned and waxy, making them ideal for potato salads.
Yukon Golds have a tender, creamy buttery look because of their golden colour inside – a great attribute for those of us needing a few tricks to reduce the fat in our family’s diet. The yukon resembles a russet, but with smooth skin. They are delicious and are best baked, roasted, or mashed.
HOW TO CHOOSE
Potatoes are available year-round as they are harvested somewhere every month of the year.
Firm, smooth potatoes, without shrivelled skins, sprouting eyes, soft spots, blemishes, and green areas are the best choice. Natural dirt can help to keep potatoes fresher so don’t look down on the ones – or if you buy ready washed buy small quantities regularly.
Green potatoes and potato sprouts are high in the alkaloid solanine, which can have a bitter flavour as well as be toxic if eaten in large quantities. As a result, green potatoes should not be eaten and sprouts on any potatoes should be removed before cooking.
Light exposure will turn the spuds green. Ideally placed in a in a brown or cotton bag or a cardboard box that is kept in a cool, dark, ventilated place, like a basement or garage for up to two months. Stored at room temperature potatoes will keep for up to two weeks. Store unwashed since the potato’s dirt can help to keep it fresher .
Extended refrigeration will change the flavour, because their starch turns to sugar in the refrigerator and the potato will become sweet and turn a dark colour when cooked. However, if storing them in the refrigerator is your only cool option, let them come to room temperature for a day (take them out in the morning for that evening’s dinner) so that their sugar can return to starch. New potatoes refrigerate best, but only for up to one week.
Scrub well. Remove sprouts, decayed and green areas. Leave whole or peel cut as desired.
Once cut, uncooked potatoes can discolour to take on bluish or dark tints. They are still safe to eat, and the colour usually disappears once the potato is cooked. To prevent this discolouration process altogether, after cutting to the desired size, immerse them in cold water until ready to use. Peeled potatoes can be kept can be kept this way in the refrigerator overnight, or up to two hours at room temperature. Any longer, however, can result in loss of some of the potatoes’ water-soluble nutrients.
Potatoes contain 20% indigestible starch, so they cannot be eaten raw. There are so many ways to enjoy potatoes as a side dish to meat and poultry – boiled, steamed, fried, baked, mashed, sautéed, roasted, and grilled. They can be prepared as a noteworthy ingredient in soups, stews, scalloped potatoes, and other casserole type. If your kids allow, prepare potatoes with skin intact to retain all the nutrients.
Quick & Easy Serving Ideas
Thicken Soups Sauté onions and garlic until translucent. Stir in peeled potatoes and broccoli stalks to cook a while. Add broccoli tops on top and 4 cups of chicken stock. Cover and simmer. After about 20 minutes, remove the broccoli stalks and puree the remaining ingredients together with a hand-held blender. Add cheese and milk.
Oven-baked Coating with sea salt, after being washed, is an option for added flavour. Pierce the skin in several places to allow steam to escape when baked at 350oF for about an hour (or 425oF for 40-55 minutes), depending on the size. Expose them on the oven rack to achieve a nice crispy skin or rub with a little olive oil for a softer skin. Another common method is to wrap the potato in foil to literally cause the potato to steam during the baking process. Bake until tender when pierced with a fork.
Microwave-baked Pierce each potato several times so the steam can escape. Bake on high until tender, turning potato over halfway. For medium-sized potatoes (approx. 5 ounces – 140g), microwave 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 minutes. For larger potatoes, (approx. 9 ounces – 255g), microwave 5 to 9 minutes.
Roasting Heat oven to 4250F. Lightly coat cut-up potatoes with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange in an even layer on a lightly oiled shallow baking pan. Roast 20 to 30 minutes until tender and caramelized. If you begin by slicing the potatoes in narrow, lengthwise strips or in wedge shapes, this is a fun, healthy method to make French fries! Check them every 10 to 15minutes to see if they need turning.
Cut Potatoes: In a large saucepan, add cut-up potatoes to approximately 2 inches of boiling water – just enough to cover. Return to a boil. Reduce heat and cook, covered, about 12 minutes or until tender; drain.
Whole potatoes: Allow 30 to 40 minutes of cooking time at a reduced heat while covered.
Mashed potatoes: Using an electric hand-mixer or potato masher, mash potatoes. Mix in warmed milk, butter (if desired), salt, and pepper. Do not over-beat or the mashed texture will become gooey and gummy.
Microwave-mashed In a microwave-safe dish, combine 1 1/2 pounds (approx. 680g) quartered potatoes and 3 Tbsp (45mL) water. Cover and microwave on high 12 to 14 minutes or until tender. Mash potatoes as described above and fold in warmed milk, butter (if desired), salt, and pepper.
Hash browns Coarsely shred potatoes and add to a heated large skillet with butter or olive oil – covered over medium heat. Cook until bottom is golden brown, adjusting heat as necessary. Carefully turn potatoes over to brown opposite side. Season with salt and pepper. Note: Turn only once for crisper potatoes.
As opposed to starting boiled potatoes in cold water for even cooking, reduce the loss of nutrients by dropping them in already boiling water. Better yet, steam them instead of boiling them to retain more of the nutrients from the skin and enhanced flavour!
Reduce the fat and calorie content of mashed potatoes by replacing the milk and butter with chicken or vegetable broth and buttermilk.
Technically a tuber, which places them in the same family as tomatoes and peppers. It’s hard to compete against the potato’s nutrition, taste, and versatility: A potato provides carbohydrates, important vitamins and minerals ( potassium, niacin, vitamins B6 and C, and manganese), as well as fibre when the skin is left in tact.Potatoes also contain a potpourri of phytonutrients like carotenoids, flavonoids, and caffeic acid, as well as unique tuber storage proteins, such as patatin, to rid free radicals, and newly identified blood pressure-lowering compounds called kukoamines.
Potato (baked, w/skin), 1 potato (202g)
Total Fat: 0.2g
*Excellent source of: Niacin (16mg), Vitamin B6 (.7mg), and Vitamin C (26mg)
*Good source of: Fibre 4.8 g, Iron (2.75mg), Magnesium (55mg), Pantothenic acid (1.12g), and Thiamine (.22mg)
*Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 20% of the Recommended Daily Value
- It is thought that potatoes came from the Andes Mountains of Peru, where ancestors of the Incas planted them more than 6,000 years ago.
- They were introduced to Ireland and then Britain in the mid-16th century, who introduced the spud to North America and New Zealand a couple of hundred years later.
Cooked potatoes are subject to discoloration, too. Sometimes, a gray-blue or blackish area develops as the cooked potato cools. This is harmless, and any discoloured area can simply be cut away.The potato belongs to the Solanaceae or nightshade family whose other members include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatillos. So there is no relation to the sweet potato who is cousin to morning glory.The potato is the swollen portion of the underground stem, known as a tuber. It is designed to provide food for the green leafy portion of the plant. If allowed to flower and fruit, the potato plant will bear an inedible fruit mistaken for a tomato.Have you heard of the newly created low carb potato that provides 30% less carbs than the higher starch varieties? When comparing a 3.5 ounce serving, it contains approximately 13 grams of carbohydrates as opposed to 19 grams for a typical russet potato.Ranks number one as the world’s vegetable crop.Potatoes will deteriorate quicker when exposed to ethylene gas, which is produced by apples, tomatoes, passionfruit, stone fruit, bananas, avocados, pawpaw, kiwifruit, pears, melons. Avoid side-by-side storage.