Potatoes originated in the area of southern Peru and extreme northwestern Bolivia.
Potatoes were domesticated approximately 7,000–10,000 years ago, and spread throughout the Americas, then into Europe with the cross ocean trade of European merchant ships .
Approximately 5,000 varieties of potato exist today, with over 3,000 in the Ades region alone.
An interesting note: Potatoes were responsible for a quarter of the growth in Old World population and urbanization between 1700 and 1900.
How much does a potato weigh?
|Potato, White, Russet or Red|
|Large||(3″ to 4-14″ dia)||369g||13oz|
|Medium||(2-1/4″ to 3-1/4″ dia)||213g||7.5oz|
|Small||(1-3/4″ to 2-1/4″ dia)||170g||6oz|
|Large||(5-3/4″+ long, 2-1/2″+ dia)||180g||6.3oz|
|Medium||(5″ long, 2″ dia)||114g||4oz|
|Small||(4″ long, 1-3/4″ dia)||60g||2.1oz|
|1 cup, cubed, raw||133g||4.7oz|
|1 cup, cubed, cooked||200g||7.1oz|
|Mountain Yam (Hawaii)|
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Related Post: Best Potatoes for French Fries
What You Need to Know about the Potato
The potato (Solanum tuberosum) is a perennial root vegetable belonging to the nightshade family along with tomatoes, peppers, and tobacco among others. It is the fourth most important crop in the world, next to rice, wheat, and corn.
Today, the potato is globally famous for being served as your favorite French Fries or potato wedge side dishes. But do you know that it has been popular in history for its role in alleviating famine in many European counties? It is also known for being the first vegetable to be grown in space!
Read this article to know the fascinating history of this nutrient-filled crop and its popular uses today.
History of the Potato
The potato has been nurtured and cultivated since 8,000 years ago by the Inca Indians who settled in the Andes Mountains in South America (now bordered by modern-day Peru and Bolivia).
The Spanish explorations in the 1500s is largely responsible for the distribution of the potato across the globe. Spanish conquistadors who were searching for gold in Peru in 1530 discovered the potato crop and brought it to Europe between 1570 and 1590. Because the potato is easy to grow and cultivate unlike wheat and oats, many researchers believe that this crop has been instrumental in ending the famine that struck many European populations due to continuous warfare. Since the early 1800s, the potato became a staple food in Europe.
In 1691, the potato was introduced to North America and some 80 years later, President Thomas Jefferson introduced French Fries to the United States. In 1995, NASA and the University of Wisconsin, Madison developed a mechanism to grow potatoes in space to feed astronauts during long space voyages.
Where the Potato is Grown
Potatoes are grown in acidic and loamy/sandy soil that is cool and well-drained. In addition, these crops need at least 6 hours of full sunlight each day
Owing to its popularity, the potato is grown in many countries, the top five largest producers of which are China, India, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States.
Potatoes boasts of many vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and manganese. According to NutritionData, one baked potato (medium-sized and skin unpeeled) contains:
- Calories: 161
- Fat: 0.2 grams
- Protein: 4.3 grams
- Carbs: 36.6 grams
- Fiber: 3.8 grams
- Vitamin C: 28% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 27% of the RDI
- Potassium: 26% of the RDI
- Manganese: 19% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 12% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 12% of the RDI
- Niacin: 12% of the RDI
- Folate: 12% of the RDI
Types of Potatoes
The potato has over 200 varieties but they can be classified into seven types according to color and shape.
- Russet Potato – This large type has a thick, rough brown skin and pale flesh. It has a light and fluffy center and is best served as baked potato, mashed potato, and French fries.
- Red Potato – This type has a thin, red skin and stays firm throughout cooking. It is best used for preparing salads and soup and can be baked, grilled, or steamed.
- Yellow Potato – This type has thin, gold skin and yellow flesh with creamy texture and buttery flavor. It is best for preparing baked potato, mashed potato, salads, soup and stews, and grilled potato.
- White Potato – This type has thin, beige skin and pale flesh. It also stays firm throughout cooking and has a nutty flavor. It is best used for pan fried potatoes, soups and stews, salads, French fries, and steamed potatoes.
- Purple or Blue Potato – This type has dark purple (or blue) skin and purple flesh. It has an earthy flavor and is best used for baked or steamed potatoes and salads.
- Fingerling Potato – This type has a variety of skin and flesh colors but all have the same nutty and buttery flavors. It is best used for baked, pan fried, steamed, and microwaved potatoes.
- Petite Potato – This type, which is harvested early, comes in different colors. It is the bite-size version of the larger potato varieties.
Popular (and Unusual) Uses of the Potato
The potato is commonly eaten as a vegetable but it is also used for a variety of purposes.
- Side dish. The potato is famed for its might in preparing many side dishes, such as French Fries and potato wedge.
- Medicine. The potato is used for addressing a range of health issues including heart disease, indigestion, high blood pressure, and osteoarthritis among others.
- Rust remover. The potato contains an acid that lifts rust even without scrubbing.
- Burn soother. The potato also contains antibacterial properties that aid in healing minor burns.
- Fun art. The potato can be used to carve homemade stamps.
- Silverware cleaner. The water left after boiling potatoes can be used to eliminate tarnish from silver.
- Stain remover. Rubbing a sliced potato can remove berry stains on your hands.
- Salty-taste balancer. A salty soup can be remedied by tossing in chunks of potato into the pot. After 10 minutes, potato the chunks should be removed.
- Beauty aid. The potato can be used to reduce wrinkles and blemishes. It can also be used to revitalize and rejuvenate the skin.