Know your potatoes

All potatoes are not alike.

I was reminded of this recently when I used the potato that was handiest (red) instead of the potato that belonged in the recipe (baking). The result was crunchy and chewy instead of soft and velvety.

So, a lesson learned: Know your potatoes and respect their differences!

Here’s some potato knowledge that might come in handy.

Potatoes are one of the most important staples in the world – and – perhaps the most popular vegetable. They’re economical, versatile, and nutritious.

An average potato weighing 5.3 oz (148g), provides vitamins A and C, iron, thiamin, more potassium than one banana, and contains only 110 calories! Potatoes also provide carbohydrates, and with the skin left on, fiber.

WAXY or NEW potatoes are high in moisture and sugar; low in starch. They are generally round, and small, however, some varieties are larger and long. Skin color may be red, white, blue or yellow.

Flesh color varies from white, yellow or blue. These are good boiling potatoes used in recipes where holding their shape is important, and are best used in salads, soups, or hash browned potatoes. Waxy potatoes are not suited for deep-frying.

STARCHY OR MATURE potatoes are high in starch, but low in sugar and moisture. Russet or Idaho potatoes are long, evenly shaped, with a rough skin. The all-purpose, or chef’s potato, is generally less dry and starchy, and are irregular in shape.

For those reasons, the all-purpose potato costs less than the Russet. Starchy potatoes are best used for baking, deep-frying, mashing, or any recipe where their shape doesn’t matter.

Store potatoes in a cool, dry place, between 55-60°F (13-16°C).

Refrigerating potatoes is not recommended since potato starch converts to sugar at temperatures below 45°F (7°C).

New potatoes don’t store well, so buy only what you will use within a week‘s time.

Did you ever notice potatoes with a greenish tinge? The green suggests that the potato has been stored in light or has been subjected to very cold or very warm temperatures.

The green areas contain solanine, which has a bitter taste. WARNING: in large quantities this can be poisonous causing headache, vomiting, diarrhea, or even paralysis of the central nervous system! Be sure to remove any green areas before cooking.

High quality potatoes are firm with smooth skin. There won’t be any “eyes” or sprouts protruding from the surface, and there certainly won’t be any green areas.
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  1. Catia October 31, 2009 at 5:06 am

    Thanks for the info!


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