Potatoes were introduced to North America in the 18th century via Irish immigrants, however their native home is South America. Potatoes were first cultivated in the Andes Mountains over 7,000 years ago. Many kinds of potatoes are seen in restaurants, grocery stores, and even homes today, but the most common of these are the russet, round white, and the red potato. Potatoes are tough and durable, store well, and have an impressive nutritional content including being a rich source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C. Like other fruits and vegetables, potatoes are a low calorie food and are free of fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Keep in mind, however, that the leaves and stems of a potato plant are poisonous and may cause illness when ingested.
Potatoes have been a staple in the diets of Americans for over 300 years, but they have been sustaining populations worldwide for much longer.
Availability, Selection, and Storage
Potatoes are grown across the United States and are available year round. Store potatoes in a cool, dry place. Sunlight can cause the skin to turn green; if this occurs the skin must then be peeled off before consuming. Most of the nutrients are contained right below the skin, so avoid peeling when possible. Besides fresh potatoes, other forms are often available as well, including:
When choosing potatoes, be sure they are firm, smooth, and the color they are supposed to be. Softness, a green tinge, or wrinkly skin may indicate a potato that is past its prime.
Potatoes should be thoroughly washed with clean tap water and scrubbed lightly before preparation. Any sprouts or eyes growing from the potato should be cut out. The skin can be removed or left on depending on use. Common methods of preparation include boiling, baking, microwaving, mashing, frying and grilling. Consuming baked and grilled potatoes with the skin left on provides the most nutrients.
- Fruit & Vegetable of the Month: Potato by the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, public domain government resource -- original source of article