In the early fall, I am always on the lookout for new potatoes.
Fall and potatoes remind me of this image, an illustration from an early childhood Alphabet book. It depicts children baking freshly harvested potatoes baked directly in hot coals. This method would not pass modern food preparation standards, but many of us still enjoy new potatoes with their thin skins on. Nutritionists state that the most nutrition in the potato is actually in the skin, which contains about half of a potato’s dietary fiber.
Potatoes have been around for 10,000 years.
Potatoes are an underground growing, starchy tuber, a simple vegetable that has impacted history around the world (such as the Irish potato famine that started the migration of the starving population to the United States). It most likely originated several thousand years ago in the region of modern-day Peru and Bolivia, in the old Inca Empire in the Andes. Later, European explorers took the newly discovered potatoes to Europe with them, and they soon became a culinary staple around the world.
They are very nutritious.
Unfortunately, most potatoes we tend to consume are prepared as French Fries, which are not the most nutritious. Potatoes are often genetically modified and fried and overall not very healthy. Explore heirloom varieties of potatoes at your local farmers’ markets. (tips for shipping at farmers’ markets here). Simply cooked potatoes are very nutritious as they contain many vitamins and minerals. But potatoes are also known to have a high glycemic index, which can spike blood sugar, with the exception of purple potatoes or cold potatoes. (See note below about resistant starch). Purple potatoes are the most nutritious variety, especially rich in polyphenol antioxidants, the same type of antioxidants found in blueberries and blackberries. They are also rich in phytochemicals, which are powerful antioxidants and it also contains calcium and B complex vitamins, vitamin C and fiber.
The power of resistant starch
Starches are types of carbohydrates. When starches, such as potatoes or rice, are allowed to cool down, they create resistant starch, which does not bring the blood sugar up, even if reheated again. In other words, it becomes resistant to rapid digestion. Depending on how foods are prepared or how ripe they are, the amount of resistant starch changes. For example, green bananas have more resistant starch in them; hence they spike our sugar less than yellow, soft bananas.
Warning: Never eat green or sprouted potatoes. Such potatoes contain two kinds of natural toxins, solanine, and chaconine. Cooking potatoes does not eliminate these glycoalkaloids; however, caraway seeds added to cooking water are supposed to neutralize it. To avoid toxin formation, store potatoes in a dry and dark place and buy only as much as you can consume fast. Also, do not store potatoes and onions together, as gasses from onions can speed up potato sprouting. As tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant falls into the nightshade family, some people are advised to avoid them.
Potato tubers come in many colors and shapes. There are around 5 000 different varieties of potatoes. The most common to us are Russet, Yukon Gold, Red potatoes, and Fingerling Potatoes. Some are better for baking or mashing due to their starch content. Fingerling potatoes are used in potato salads due to their delicate taste. Purple potatoes, such as Purple Peruvian or All Blue, are a variety the most similar to the original, and they are genetically closest to the original varieties grown in the Andes.
There are many ways to prepare potatoes.
Potatoes should never be left standing in the water after cooking but should be strained as soon as possible. If making masked potatoes, add butter and cream while still hot. If cooking potatoes in their skins for potato salad, peel the potatoes as soon as they cool enough to handle. This way, the potato skin peels of easily. It is very hard to peel cool, cooked potatoes.
White potatoes (Yukon Gold or Russett) are the best variety for the classic mashed potatoes dish.
1 lb of potatoes
Cup milk or cream
2 Tbs of butter
Chopped up parsley
- Wash, peel and cut up potatoes into even pieces and add to cold water (not hot water as it will cook the potatoes unevenly).
- Once the water starts boiling, turn to medium heat so the water does not boil too rapidly, which cooks the potatoes unevenly. (they may be overcooked on the outside and not done on the inside). In about 15-20 min of boiling, check for doneness.
- Do not overcook.
- As soon as potatoes are soft, strain carefully in the kitchen sink with the cold water running, with the lid slid aside slightly away from you, to avoid being burned by the steam.
- Strain completely. Do not leave any water in the pot. That could ruin the taste.
- Return lid back to pot and place strained potatoes on the same burner. The residual heat will further “dry up” the pot and the potatoes.
- Immediately add butter and put the lid back on for 20 seconds to let the butter melt, then add milk and parsley. Mash the potatoes using a handheld mixer or potato masher.
- Serve immediately; the mashed potatoes taste best right after cooking.
If you do not have an immersion blender, you can always mash potatoes the old-fashioned way.
ROASTED PURPLE POTATOES
1 Lb of purple potatoes, washed
2 Tbs of olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and cut up into rings
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut
½ tsp caraway seeds
Fresh or dry rosemary
Salt to taste
- Wash potatoes and cut lengthwise into even slices
- Generously coat with olive oil
- Sprinkle with salt and caraway seeds
- Cover with onion rings and garlic
- Spread rosemary
- Place in the oven, preheated to 350-400F, and bake until done and slightly brown
POTATO SALAD WITH DILL AND PICKLES
Potato salad made with purple potatoes is especially tasty and attractive. It can be made ahead of time. (This salad is an easy shortcut. I just open a jar of my favorite German pickles, cut them up, and add to the still-warm potatoes. I add some juice from the pickle jar so the potatoes absorb the liquid, and then add dill from my garden or freezer. They are served warm or cold.
Freshly cooked potatoes
Jar of your favorite pickles
¼ cup pickle juices
Dill (fresh or frozen)
- Gently mix freshly cooked potatoes, still hot, and cut up into quarters or halves if a smaller variety, with their skin on or peeled.
- Add liquid from pickles, dill, or other pickling vegetables from the jar, if available.
- If making ahead, store in the fridge covered with foil.
POTATOES WITH PESTO
Frozen pesto is an easy go-to ingredient to have on hand to add to potatoes, and it could be a meal by itself. If you are up to making your own pesto and freezing, the recipe can be found here.
3 Tbs pesto
- Mix cooked and drained potatoes with pesto.
- Mix or smash into preferred consistency.
- Can add more olive oil, garlic, and salt to taste.
Potatoes and Other Tubers by Bill Briwa
Format: eVideo (HOOPLA)
The Complete Book of Potatoes by Hielke De Jong
Formats: Book & eBook (HOOPLA)
Black Potatoes by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Format: eBook (HOOPLA)
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