Archaeological evidence credits the natives of Peru with cultivating the earliest forms of potatoes about 4500 years ago. There is also evidence that wild tubers (potato plants) grew in the Peruvian plateau and mountainous regions as early as 10,000 years ago. Spanish conquistadors discovered potatoes and brought them back to Europe. The Europeans, in turn, brought them to North America. It was a roundabout journey, but well worth it. Today, potatoes are grown in all 50 of the United States and over 130 countries around the world.
You might wonder why potatoes are so prevalent, but with a little bit of research, it is easy to understand. The fast-growing potato can yield a crop that is five times larger than or wheat or corn, which can explain why they are popular in countries with small land areas, such as Ireland. In addition, throughout history people have turned to the potato for nourishment in times of crisis. During times of war, when enemy soldiers destroyed crops and livestock, they would often miss the potatoes, because they were buried below ground. When the soldiers left, people could dig up their potatoes and still have something left to eat.
Not only does the potato hold a great place in history, but also it also ranks high on the nutritional charts. The potato is fat-free and cholesterol-free. It is a healthy, nutritional powerhouse, loaded with fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. A medium-sized potato has more potassium than a banana and more vitamin C than an orange. Potatoes are also a good source of vitamin B6, and when eaten with the skin on, they are a good source of fiber. You may also be surprised to find out that a medium potato contains less than 10% of the recommended daily value of carbohydrates.
Age to introduce: 8-10 months (cooked and pureed).
Toddler Treat: Pink Potatoes
They might not be exactly pink, but more a delightful shade of peach. The addition of a sweet potato adds the color, but also a terrific flavor, your kids may never want the plain ones ever again. Using the potato’s cooking water, instead of milk, adds back some of the nutrients that cook out the potatoes, and are a big hit for anyone with a diary allergy (or lactose intolerance).
- 4 medium sized white potatoes
- 1 medium sized sweet potato
- 1-3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 Tbsp butter or margarine
- Salt and pepper to taste
Scrub and peel the potatoes and cut them into to 2- inch chunks. Place the potatoes and the garlic cloves in a saucepan; add tap water until it covers the potatoes. Set pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 10-12 minutes, until a fork slides easily through the potatoes. Drain potatoes, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Mash the cooked potatoes and garlic with a potato masher, add butter or margarine, and reserved liquid ¼ cup at a time, until potatoes are creamy, whipped consistency. Serves 4-6
Potatoes For The Family
At the market: Select loose potatoes that are well formed, smooth, firm, with eyes, and no discoloration, cracks, bruises or soft spots. Avoid “green” potatoes. They have been exposed to light and have a bitter taste.
There are hundreds of varieties of potatoes. When choosing potatoes:
- The classic long, brownish ones are best for baking or mashing
- Rounded or long whites are good for boiling, baking or roasting
- The small red ones are ideal for boiling, mashing or roasting
- “New” potatoes are best boiled or steamed
Storage: Do not wash your potato before storing. Washing speeds decay. Store potatoes in a dry, dark, cool place. Do not refrigerate.
Healthy ideas to add potatoes in your meals:
Best Baked Potatoes: According to the experts in Idaho, it is best to pierce a potato with a fork several times instead of wrapping it in foil to cook. A baked potato heaped with butter and sour cream is fattening and boring. Try these creative and healthy toppings to jazz up a baked potato.
- Salsa, black beans and corn
- Chopped, cooked broccoli and cheddar cheese (finish under broiler)
- Cottage cheese with fresh chopped herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice
- Chopped, cooked asparagus and Swiss cheese (finish under broiler)
- Chopped grilled chicken and guacamole
- Tuna (can or grilled) and steamed green beans lightly tossed in vinaigrette
- Chopped fresh tomatoes, chopped sun dried tomatoes, chopped fresh basil and cubed mozzarella cheese tossed in olive oil (finish under broiler)
Mashed potatoes are a versatile side dish. With the addition of a few simple herbs and spices, you change their personality to pair with any ethnic menu. Simply make your mashed potato recipe and just before serving, try one of these:
- Southwestern: Add one chopped chipotle chili (in adobo sauce), 2 Tbsp of chopped cilantro
- Southern: Add ¼ cup crumbled bacon (pork, soy, or turkey) with 2 Tbsp chopped green onions.
- French: Add 2 Tbsp of chopped dill and 1 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice
- Japanese: Add 1 Tbsp of wasabi paste with 2 Tbsp chopped chives
- Italian: Add 2 Tbsp of prepared pesto sauce and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese.
To save time, keep a bag of frozen hash browns on hand at all times. Whenever a recipe calls for a potato (for thickening), use 1 cup of the hash browns as a substitute.
Over salted your veggies? Add a slice of raw potato to soak up the extra saltiness. (also works with gravy, soups, stews, and other cooked dishes)