Potato Fun Facts
For you potato lovers out there, here are 10 fun facts to know and tell about our beloved potatoes.
- Potatoes are really good for you especially if you eat the skin. A medium – sized potato provides 17 percent of the potassium, a third of the vitamin C, and almost 11 percent of the niacin you need in a day with only 145 calories. The skin adds vitamin C and nearly 5 grams of fiber which everyone needs.
- To microwave or to bake? If short on time, cut a slit in the top of each potato to let steam escape and microwave for 9 minutes. Microwave potatoes can have a coarse, grainy texture, and won’t cook as evenly as when baked.
Try this great method for a perfect baked potato: Rub a russet with olive oil and kosher salt and bake at 375 degrees for an hour. Don’t wrap in foil, the skin won’t crisp.
- What about pre-mashed instant potatoes? Ready-made instant potatoes are fine for thickening soups or replacing breadcrumbs in pan-frying but too starchy to stand in for homemade. That said, instant potatoes can satisfy a craving for mashed potatoes when short on time.
- Many varieties of potatoes, five main types:
Russets – The most popular starchy variety for frying and baking, not for stew. Usually large and oblong, with rough brown skin and white flesh.
Yellow-skinned – Yukon gold have a tawny skin with dense, waxy flesh that can range from light yellow to golden shapes. Good for roasting.
White – White potatoes have smooth, tan-colored skin and white flesh, and are available in round or long Russet-like shapes. Can be very waxy or starchy.
Red – Red potatoes may have smooth, ruddy skin and white, yellow, or reddish-tinged flesh. They’re waxy, making them good candidates for roasting.
Blue and Purple – These potatoes are the newest type on the American market. Skin and starchy flesh range from lavender to navy.
- Chips: as bad as you think?
Regular, fried, or kettle – style chips have about 10 grams of fat (mostly unsaturated) and 150 calories per ounce. Baked potato chips are made from dried potatoes, binders and such – have a range from 3 – 8 grams of fat per ounce compared to regular chips. Baked chips have a different texture and the total calories are less than regular chips. Overall, if you are watching your calorie intake, baked chips are the way to go. Otherwise, regular chips would be a sometime choice but not an everyday choice.
- Waxy vs. starchy
Russets are nice and fluffy when baked because their densely packed starch molecules expand and separate during cooking. But they don’t hold their shape well when sliced after cooking. Lower- starch waxy potatoes hold together much better, so they’re great for gratins and salads. When properly mashed, russets remain fluffy as they absorb fat or liquids, while waxy potatoes (white and red) tend to be gummy.
- Sweet, but not a potato
Sweet potatoes are closely related to potatoes, but not in fact a potato. Sweet potatoes are true root vegetables, an enlarged section of the root used by the plant to store energy, while potatoes are stem tubers, formed from the stem of the plant.
- Store them in the dark
Potatoes are best stored in darkness, below room temperature-45 to 55 degrees. Try a room-temperature cabinet or pantry. Warmth causes potatoes to wrinkle, soften or sprout. Light can cause parts to turn green from mildly toxic chemical called solanine (it would take about a pound of green potato to make you sick). If you cut off any green parts before cooking, you remove all risk.
- What makes a “new” potato new?
Normally, potato vines are killed a few weeks before fall harvest and the potatoes allowed to cure underground to thicken their skins. New potatoes are harvested in spring while the vines are still alive; these baby potatoes have thin, almost papery skins and a sweeter taste than mature potatoes.
- Humble spud, haute beverage
Does it really matter if a “neutral spirit” is made from grain, cane, beets, grapes, or potatoes? Yes! A Cooking Light taste test (done blind) found a premium priced Polish potato vodka to be distinctively delicious.
Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine: Healthy Living Nutrition
Author: Michelle Hanson
Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.
Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. She will look forward to meeting you!