*Today potatoes are grown in all 50 states of the USA and in about 125 countries throughout the world.
*The sweet potato belongs in the same family as morning glories while the white potato belongs to the same group as tomatoes, tobacco, chile pepper, eggplant and the petunia.
*The potato is about 80% water and 20% solids.
*An 8 ounce baked or boiled potato has only about 100 calories.
*The average American eats about 124 pounds of potatoes per year while Germans eat about twice as much.
*In 1974, an Englishman named Eric Jenkins grew 370 pounds of potatoes from one plant.
*Thomas Jefferson gets the credit for introducing “french fries” to America when he served them at a White House dinner.
*According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest potato grown was 7 pounds 1 ounce by J. East (1953) and J. Busby (1982) of Great Britain.
*The world’s largest potato chip crisp (on exhibit at the Potato Museum) was produced by the Pringle’s Company in Jackson, TN, in 1990. It measures 23″ x 14.5″.
*In October 1995, the potato became the first vegetable to be grown in space. NASA and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, created the technology with the goal of feeding astronauts on long space voyages, and eventually, feeding future space colonies.
*Potato blossoms used to be a big hit in royal fashion. Potatoes first became fashionable when Marie Antoinette paraded through the French countryside wearing potato blossoms in her hair.
The Potato is a near Perfect Food
The US Department of Agriculture has stated that “a diet of whole milk and potatoes would supply almost all of the food elements necessary for the maintenance of the human body.”
The potato itself is 99.9% fat free, and yet it is a nutrient dense food. It is an important dietary staple in over 130 countries.
Select loose potatoes that are well formed, smooth, firm, with eyes, and no discoloration, cracks, bruises or soft spots. Red potatoes and some whites are sometimes treated with colored or clear wax to make them appear fresher than they are. Also avoid “green” potatoes. They have been exposed to light and have a bitter taste.
Potatoes are classified by shape, skin color and use. The long brownish ones are good for a variety of uses but are best for baking. Rounded or long whites are preferred for boiling and baking, and the small red ones are ideal for boiling. “New” potatoes, the small ones that are dug early before the skins have set, are best boiled or steamed.
Do not wash your potato before storing. Washing speeds decay. Potatoes can be safely stored in a dry, dark place for three months at 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Buy only a week’s supply if you must store them at higher temperatures, which cause sprouting and shriveling. Do not store potatoes in the refrigerator. Below 40 degrees, potato starch turns to sugar, making the potato too sweet. Too cold of storage also darkens potatoes during cooking.
Bake, boil or steam them in their skins. Some nutrients close to the skin are lost when potatoes are peeled before cooking. If you must peel them, use a vegetable parer and peel as thinly as possible. Do not soak peeled potatoes in cold water to crisp them, since some nutrients will dissolve in the water.