Potato is an edible tuber of a vegetable plant. Potato is popularly known as ‘alu’ or ’aloo’ in Hindi. It is often termed as the King of vegetables. Potato is grown underground. Usually, the texture of potato is hard with red, brown and yellow colored skin. Under the skin there is an edible pale flesh that is used widely in making various snacks, side dishes and main dishes. Baked potato, potato cutlets, French fries, potato chips and peas potato curry are some of the popular potato dishes that are well-liked in international cuisine.
Origin of Potatoes
The original cultivation of potato has been started in Bolivia, Chile and Peru. The Inca Indians living in these countries have started growing potatoes, 400 years ago. In Europe, Spanish explorers were the first to eat potatoes, in mid 1500’s. Soon, potato became the principal crop in Ireland and became famous as ‘Irish potato’.
Culinary Uses of Potatoes
Potato is a very versatile kind of vegetable cooked in every household. It is readily available in all grocery stores throughout the year. Potato is cooked in several ways and potato recipes are usually easy to make. Boiled and mashed potatoes are mainly used to make cutlets, rolls and various stuffing. Baked potato casserole is a very common potato dish served in western cuisine. Fried potato chips, French fries and hash brown are the side dishes served with soups and sandwiches. Potato is used as a main vegetable in making various curry and dry potato dishes such as peas potato, potato mutton curry and aloo Gobi. Festive and everyday potato dishes are quiet famous in many cuisines. In Spanish cuisine, pepper and potato dishes are commonly served at the time of festivals.
Cuisines Commonly Making Potato Dishes
Peruvian cuisine widely uses potato in most of the dishes as it is the birth place of potato. Papa Rellena (Stuffed potato) is the most popular potato dish of the region. Chuno is also one of the popular Peruvian soup dishes made up of potato. European and Indian cuisines are also not far behind from the cuisine of Peru in using potato as a main vegetable in cooking. Indian ‘aloo ki subzi’ and ‘aloo bonda’ are world famous like American French fries and Hash brown.
Preferable Methods of Cooking Potatoes
Potato can be cooked in number of ways and it cannot be eaten raw. As an underground grown vegetable, potatoes should be thoroughly washed or soaked in water before cooking. Here are some of the preferable methods for cooking potato:
• Boiling – This is one of the simplest methods of cooking potato. Potatoes are boiled with skin and skin is removed after boiling. Boiled potatoes can be used in various potato dishes such as mashed potatoes, potato cutlets and patties.
• Fried – Fried potatoes are popularly served as snacks or side dishes such as French fries, chips and fried potato chaat.
• Baked – Potatoes are baked with cheese and other ingredients to make a nice side dish.
• Steamed – This is also a healthy method of cooking potato as it doesn’t require much of oil.
Nutritional Value of Potatoes
Potato is often misunderstood as fattening. However, being rich in high-quality proteins and carbohydrates, potato and potato dishes are the perfect base for a well-balanced diet. In fact, potatoes contain no fats and are cholesterol free. The nutritive value of potato dishes depends upon the method of preparation as well as the other ingredients used. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C and water soluble vitamin. It is also one of the most concentrated sources of potassium. So, potato by itself is not a fattening vegetable but a healthy vegetable.
Buying and Storing of Potatoes
Here are few tips that should be kept in mind while buying and storing the potatoes:
• Always buy firm potatoes that are free from cuts and bruises.
• Discoloration and plumpness in potato are the main signs of decay.
• Never buy potatoes having sprouts, dark spots and green skin. Green skinned potatoes may be bitter in taste and may contain toxins.
• Potatoes should always be stored in dry places. Cellar is ideal to keep potatoes but any place is suitable that is free from excess light and heat. • Potatoes stored in dark and dry place have more shelf life as they get sprouts and green skin at a very later stage.
• Leftover potato dishes should be stored in refrigerator for 2-3 days. Boiled potatoes can also be stored in refrigerator for not more than 3 days.
Suitability of Potatoes
Potato is a highly nutritious vegetable but it is not recommended for people suffering from Type-2 Diabetes. Even cooked potatoes are considered as risky as eating raw sugar in diabetes. It contains starch that converts to higher glycemic than pure sugar. The obese and sedentary persons should also avoid potato rich diet.
Food and Drug Administration Approval for Potatoes
Recently in 2006, FDA has approved a product called Arista AH that is made up of potato starch. This product is able to assist the body in blood clotting. It is shown to be effective in controlling bleeding during surgical processes.
Types of Potatoes
Potato as one of the most popular staple food in the world has many varieties available all over the world. Some of them as follow:
• Desiree – It has firm texture with oval-shape and red skin. It is best for roasting and chipping.
• King Edward – It has white skin with a pinkish top. This variety has floury flesh and good for roasting and mashing.
• Marfona – With waxy flesh, marfona potatoes are suitable for baked potato dishes.
• Maris Piper – This variety is very popular in UK. With creamy skin and floury flesh, it is ideal fro baking and roasting. Along with above mentioned varieties, other varieties are Nicola, Nadine, Saxon, Cara and charlotte. All varieties have their distinct features and uses.
• Potato contains more potassium as compared to banana.
• In Scotland, consumption of potatoes was banned by some paranoid ministers due to the fact that potato is not mentioned in Bible.