Whether mashed, baked or roasted, people often consider potatoes as comfort food. It is an important food staple and the number one vegetable crop in the world. Potatoes are available year-round as they are harvested somewhere every month of the year.
The potato belongs to the Solanaceae or nightshade family whose other members include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatillos. They are the swollen portion of the underground stem which is called a tuber and 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 resembling a tomato.
Potatoes originated in the Andean mountain region of South America. Researchers estimate that potatoes have been cultivated by the Indians living in these areas for between 4,000 and 7,000 years. Unlike many other foods, potatoes were able to be grown at the high altitudes typical of this area and therefore became a staple food for these hardy people.
Potatoes were brought to Europe by Spanish explorers who "discovered" them in South America in the early 16th century. Since potatoes are good sources of vitamin C, they were subsequently used on Spanish ships to prevent scurvy. They were introduced into Europe via Spain, and while they were consumed by some people in Italy and Germany, they were not widely consumed throughout Europe, even though many governments actively promoted this nutritious foodstuff that was relatively inexpensive to produce. The reason for this is that since people knew that the potato is related to the nightshade family, many felt that it was poisonous like some other members of this family. In addition, many judged potatoes with suspicion since they were not mentioned in the Bible. In fact, potatoes initially had such a poor reputation in Europe that many people thought eating them would cause leprosy.
It is thought that the potato was first brought to the United States in the early 18th century by Irish immigrants who settled in New England. People in this country were slow to adopt the "Irish potato" and large scale cultivation of potatoes did not occur in the U.S. until the 19th century.
There are not that many foods that can claim that a pivotal historical event centered around them. But the potato can. By the early 19th century, potatoes were being grown extensively throughout Northern Europe, and potatoes were almost solely relied upon as a foodstuff in Ireland owing to this vegetable's inexpensive production and the poor economy of this country. Yet, in 1845 and 1846, a blight ruined most of the potato crop in Ireland and caused major devastation: this event is known as the Irish Potato Famine. Almost three-quarters of a million people died, and hundreds of thousands emigrated to other countries, including the United States, in search of sustenance.
Today, this once-infamous vegetable is one of the most popular throughout the world and the one that Americans consume more of pound for pound than any other.
Potatoes are a very popular food source. Unfortunately, most people eat potatoes in the form of greasy French fries or potato chips, and even baked potatoes are typically loaded down with fats such as butter, sour cream, melted cheese and bacon bits. Such treatment can make even baked potatoes a potential contributor to a heart attack. But take away the extra fat and deep frying, and a baked potato is an exceptionally healthful low calorie, high fiber food that offers significant protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer.
In fact, potatoes as a very good source of vitamin B6 and a good source of potassium, copper, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, dietary fiber, and pantothenic acid.
Potatoes also contain a variety of phytonutrients that have antioxidant activity. Among these important health-promoting compounds are carotenoids, flavonoids, and caffeic acid, as well as unique tuber storage proteins, such as patatin, which exhibit activity against free radicals.
The ideal way to store potatoes is in a dark, dry place between 45F to 50F (between 7-10C) as higher temperatures, even room temperature, will cause the potatoes to sprout and dehydrate prematurely. While most people do not have root cellars that provide this type of environment, to maximize the potato's quality and storage, you should aim to find a place as close as possible to these conditions. Storing them in a cool, dark closet or basement may be suitable alternatives. Potatoes should definitely not be exposed to sunlight as this can cause the development of the toxic alkaloidsolanine to form.
Potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator, as their starch content will turn to sugar giving them an undesirable taste. In addition, do not store potatoes near onions, as the gases that they each emit will cause the degradation of one another. Wherever you store them, they should be kept in a burlap or paper bag.
Mature potatoes (not new potatoes, which you find earlier in the season) stored properly can keep up to two months. Check on the potatoes frequently, removing any that have sprouted or shriveled as spoiled ones can quickly affect the quality of the others. New potatoes are much more perishable and will only keep for one week.
Cooked potatoes will keep fresh in the refrigerator for several days. Potatoes do not freeze well.
Roasted New Red Potatoes
A simple, delicious way to prepare the season's first potatoes. Never feel limited by the ingredient list - the ways to prepare a roasted potato are limitless. Play with the types of oil, herbs, seasonings, and even types of potatoes. My mom used to make a great roasted potato dish with Lipton's onion soup mix and oil...who knew?
- 1 1/2 pounds baby red potatoes, quartered
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss potatoes, oil, and rosemary on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread out potatoes in a single layer; season with salt and pepper. Roast, stirring once halfway through cooking, until potatoes are golden brown and crisp outside and tender inside, about 30 minutes.
French Potato Salad
Great with burgers or BBQ for the summer!
- 2 1/2 pounds fingerling or small new potatoes, halved (quartered if large)
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 small shallot, minced (2 tablespoons)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or try basil, oregano)
- 1/4 small red onion, sliced
- STEP 1
Place potatoes in a large pot; cover with cold water by 1 inch and season generously with salt. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Run under cold water to cool slightly, then drain.
- STEP 2
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together oil, mustard, vinegar, shallot, parsley, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Add potatoes and onion and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature. To store, refrigerate, up to overnight.
Potato Pancakes (Latkes)
Often an accompaniment to Jewish-themed meals, I have often enjoyed this dish alongside matzo ball soup and challah bread. Don't be afraid to serve with ketchup...it's still classy! Can also add some grated zucchini for added flavor.
- 2 medium peeled russet potatoes
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- Sour cream and chives (for serving)
- Apple Sauce (for serving)
Grate potatoes into a large bowl using the large holes on a box grater. Season with a teaspoon coarse salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper and let stand 10 minutes; stir to blend in any liquid. Heat vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high. Drop in rounded tablespoons of potatoes and flatten with a spatula. Cook until golden-brown on both sides, about 5 minutes total, then drain on paper towels. Repeat with more oil and remaining potatoes. Serve with sour cream and chives or applesauce alongside.
Potato and Red Pepper Frittata
This dish is based on tortilla Espanola. In Spain, it is traditionally accompanied by garlic mayonnaise but it is also delicious served on its own. You can use leftover boiled or baked potatoes in place of the raw ones. Simply slice them, and add to the onion mixture at the end of step 2. It's okay if the potatoes do not cook evenly. Some will be browned; some will only be translucent. We use this as a quick meal around the farm, when we are running short on time - play with different veggies and herbs.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, stem, ribs, and seeds removed, then thinly sliced in strips
- 2 russet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into thin slices
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 8 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In an 8-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; set aside.
Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in skillet. Add potatoes; season generously with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, tossing often, until potatoes are tender and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer potatoes to bowl with onion mixture; toss to combine. Return mixture to skillet; flatten with a metal spatula.
In a large bowl, beat eggs with rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Pour over potato mixture; tilt pan to distribute evenly. Bake until set, 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into wedges, and serve.
Zuppa Toscana, Italian Tuscan Sausage Soup
Yield: About 6 servings
This recipe comes recommended from garden member Brenda who found it on allrecipes.com
It is a good way to use some of the kale that is so abundant from the farm. Potatoes, onions and garlic will be coming your way soon!
1 (16 ounce) package smoked sausage
2 potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
3/4 cup chopped onion
6 slices bacon
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 cups kale - washed, dried, and shredded
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder
1 quart water
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
- Layer the sausage links onto a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, or until done. Cut in half length-wise, then cut at an angle into 1/2 inch slices.
- Place onions and bacon in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until onions are almost clear.
- Remove bacon and crumble. Set aside.
- Add garlic to the onions and cook an additional 1 minute. Add chicken base or bouillon, water, and potatoes, simmer 15 minutes.
- Add crumbled bacon, sausage, kale, and cream. Simmer 4 minutes and serve.
Serve these topped with your favorite salsa and a dollop of sour cream, just like traditional nachos. Two wonderful worlds collide!
3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and each cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup (about 4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack, or cheddar cheese
8 slices turkey or pork bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 scallions, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, toss potato wedges with the oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange wedges in a single layer in an ovenproof 12-inch skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until underside is golden, about 8 minutes. Turn potatoes with tongs or a spatula; transfer skillet to oven.
Roast until potatoes are golden and crisp on the outside and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven.
Sprinkle potatoes with cheese, bacon, and scallions; return to oven, and continue baking until cheese is melted, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from oven, and serve hot.