If there was a competition for the world’s most versatile food, potatoes would surely be in the finals! This veggie is hearty enough to be an entrée and can be whipped (no pun intended) into countless, sure-to-please side dishes.
Care & Handling
Buy a large bag (5 or 10 pounds) only if you can check the condition of the potatoes through the packaging and if you are going to use them before they spoil. Look for clean, smooth, well-shaped potatoes. Potatoes should feel firm and the "eyes", the buds from which sprouts can grow, should be few and shallow. The skins should be free of cracks, wrinkles, or dampness. Reject potatoes with black spots, bruises, or other discolorations.
Few modern homes have root cellars, but a cool (45°F to 50°F), dark, dry place makes the best storage area, as warmth and moisture encourage sprouting and direct sunlight can “sunburn” the potato causing the potato skin to form a toxin called solanine. Don't put potatoes in the refrigerator or store them at temperatures below 45°F. Their starch will turn to sugar, giving them an undesirable sweet taste (although leaving them at room temperature for a few days allows the sugar to turn back into starch). Keep the potatoes in burlap, brown paper, or perforated plastic bag. Check them occasionally and remove any that have sprouted, softened, or shriveled; a bad one can adversely affect the condition of the others.
Nutritionally speaking, the less you do to potatoes, the better. The skin is an excellent source of fiber, so try to leave it on. If you decide to peel it because you don't like the taste of the skin, do so carefully. Use a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler to remove the thinnest possible layer, and thus preserve the nutrients just below the skin. Better yet, simply scrub unpeeled potatoes under cold water before cooking; remove any sprouts, green spots, or deep eyes with a sharp paring knife. Generally speaking, low-starch, high-moisture "waxy" potatoes, such as Round Reds, are best for boiling or steaming. They remain firm-textured when sliced or diced (before or after cooking), and are therefore a good choice for stews, casseroles, or salads in which you want the potato pieces to hold their shape. Starchy potatoes, such as Russets, have a drier flesh. They turn out fluffy when baked or mashed and may fall apart if cut into chunks or slices after cooking. They are best used in soups and stews in which the potatoes are meant to break up and thicken the cooking liquid. All-purpose potatoes are sort of a compromise potato, neither too starchy nor too waxy.
Nutrition & Health Benefits:
Contrary to what some may have heard, potatoes are nutrient powerhouses! Not only does a potato give you an energizing supply of complex carbohydrates, but it also provides protein and important vitamins and minerals, including: • Potassium • Vitamins B6 and C • Copper • Manganese.