Potatoes are native to the Peruvian Andes and are in the eggplant and tomato family (also known as the nightshade family). Potatoes come in many varieties, shapes and colors. Whichever you choose, they all can be prepared the same way, but each has a slightly different taste and texture. When cooking new potatoes, whether boiled, baked or French fried, eat the peel, too, since it is vitamin-packed.
Russet usually called Idaho no matter where it is grown: Has a brownish, russet-colored skin with smooth netting. It is oblong in shape with shallow eyes. It has a thick skin and a high starch content. It is excellent for baking, frying and mashing, but can be used for all purposes. They tend to fall apart when boiled or pan-roasted. It has a mealy texture. Eat skin and all.
Long White: Originating in California, has a thin skin, not a great deal of starch, and is good for boiling or homestyle frying.
Round White: The potato of the Northeast is smooth-skinned potato of all-round use.
Red & White New Potatoes: The new potato gets its name from the fact it is dug up before maturity. They have a thin skin that is easily removed. They are excellent for boiling whole in their skins or jackets and eaten with the skin on. Just mash them and butter them on your plate. This type is used for boiling, creaming, frying and in salads, or any way you choose.
Blue or Purple Potato sometimes called Black: This is a novelty item. It has blue skin and the flesh is blue all the way to the center. It has good flavor and can be baked or boiled, or served the same way as other potatoes.
Yukon Gold and Carola or yellow: These are yellow fleshed and make naturally buttery mashed potatoes and come in various sizes though the flavor stays the same. Their skin is thin, smooth and the potato is creamy, best boiled or fried.
Red skinned potatoes: These are dense and waxy and have a relatively little starch content and hold their shape well when boiled or roasted.
Fingerlings: These are sweet-tasting, tender and best roasted, steamed or microwaved and eaten as finger food.
HOW TO BUY:
Look for potatoes that are uniform in size to make cooking easier, or choose a bag of various sizes to suit different preparation methods, ie, large for peeling, small for boiling, etc. Mature baking potatoes should be dry, firm and well shaped. The eyes should be shallow and well-shaped. Avoid potatoes that are wilted or have cuts and bruises, or sprouts; they will not store well and will have to be used in a few days. They should not have a strong odor. Smell the bag before buying.
Potatoes are packed with vitamins. They are high in Vitamin C and have a good supply of Vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, iron and calcium; they are high in carbohydrates (mainly starch). They are not as fattening as people believe. They become laden with calories only when you fry them and add butter and sour cream. One medium baked potato contains 90 calories; boiled-105 calories; 10 potato chips-115; 10 French fries-155; 1 cup mashed potatoes with milk and butter added has 195.
If potatoes sprout, brush the sprouts off and discard, they are poisonous and will draw the nutrition out of the potato leaving it withered and rubbery.
Old potatoes should be started to cook in cold water, while new potatoes should start to cook in hot water. Mashed potatoes are fluffier if a pinch of baking powder or egg white is added during the beating time.
Save the cooking water from cut potatoes and freeze for soup stock or use in making gravy. If soup, gravy, etc. is too salty, add raw potato to it and the potato will absorb the excess salt. Then discard the potato if desired.
Left over mashed potatoes make a cream of potato soup by adding milk, butter, fresh minced parsley, bacon (fried) onion salt, and pepper.
Microwave: Prick potato with fork before baking. To speed time, wrap in plastic before baking.
Baked: Wash and dry. Pierce before baking to avoid exploding. To give a baked potato extra tender skin, rub it with butter, wrap it in foil and bake it in 350º to 400º oven or bake unwrapped. Special nails can be purchased which speed the time of baking potatoes.
Avoid potatoes with a greenish cast a (giveaway for the presence of solanine). They have seen to much light and will likely be bitter and if eaten in large quantities are toxic.. Keep potatoes in cool (but not refrigerated), dark, well ventilated place.
Rinse potatoes after slicing, etc. before adding to casseroles, etc. to avoid discoloration. Keep in cold water until used to avoid darkening from the starch reacting to the air.
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