The most popular vegetable in the world is the potato. Even so, potatoes often get a bad rap because of their high carbohydrate content in the form of starch. However, in addition to being rich in carbohydrates, potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, and B vitamins. The skin is a great source of fiber, and potatoes are naturally fat free.
Look for firm potatoes that are free from spots and have reasonably smooth skin. Avoid potatoes with large cuts, bruises or decay. Once potatoes have sprouted or become soft or shriveled, they have lost nutritional value. Green potatoes may have a bitter flavor so avoid those as well. Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place away from onions. Don’t store potatoes in an airtight plastic container or bag. They need some air. Potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator. This will make them taste sweet instead of starchy. Remove any potatoes that are soft, wrinkled or sprouting. Removing rotten potatoes stops the other potatoes from spoiling as quickly.
There are more than 100 different kinds of potatoes that vary in size, shape, taste, color, and amount of starch. Some of the most common potato varieties are russet, red, Yukon gold, and new potatoes. Russets are low in moisture and high in starch, which makes them good for baking, mashing, and frying. Red potatoes are medium sized with thin red skin. They have a crisp, waxy texture and are good for boiling, steaming, and roasting. Since they keep their shape when cooked, they are a good choice for dishes that have cooked potato pieces in them, such as potato salad, soups, and stews. Yukon gold potatoes have light yellow skin and flesh and a buttery flavor. They are good for boiling and making mashed potatoes but do not bake well. New potatoes are harvested very early when they are about two inches long. The skin of this potato contains a high level of moisture. The flesh is sweet and contains a lower level of starch. New potatoes are great for boiling, steaming, baking, pan-frying, or roasting. They also work well in potato salads, soups, stews, and casseroles.
To boil potatoes, place the potatoes into boiling water (not cold water). This will help keep more of the vitamin C. Cover and cook until the potatoes can be pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. This will take about 10 to 15 minutes for small potatoes. Do not wrap potatoes in aluminum foil when baking. Foil traps moisture which will steam rather than bake the potatoes. Preheat oven to 400°F. Wash and dry the potatoes, and pierce the skin a few times with a fork before baking. This allows steam to escape, making fluffy potatoes. Test for doneness by squeezing the potatoes. They will be soft when done and should take about 45 to 60 minutes. Potatoes can also be microwaved. Potatoes can explode in the microwave if the skins are not pierced. Cooking times are about 5 minutes for one medium potato, 10 minutes for two potatoes, and 15 minutes for four potatoes.
A serving of potatoes can help make half your plate full of fruits and vegetables. Since potatoes are available year round, they are an easy choice to include in your menu. In order to maximize the nutritional benefits of this vegetable, opt for methods of cooking that add little or no fat to the potato.