Potatoes are one of the most versatile vegetables around--as
well as one of my most favorite! When stored properly, your
crop will last throughout most of the winter.
There are more than 80 varieties of potatoes. The most
variety is the brown Russet potato, which is long and cylindrical
Potatoes are grown more extensively than any other
They were originally brought to Europe from South America, but
didn't pay much attention to this underground tuber until well
eighteenth century. Before that time potatoes were planted
gardens because of their star-shaped blossoms that thrive when
left to grow wild. The Europeans, in fact, thought that the
portion of the potato could cause leprosy and other frightful
The Irish, however, took quickly to growing potatoes as one of
food crops because they grew so well in poor soil. When the
was brought to North America, is was known as the "Irish potato,"
to differentiate it from the sweet potato. Americans now
a large quantity of potatoes each year, many of which are grown
in the Pacific Northwest.
Potatoes are high in vitamins B and C, and they also contain a
potassium. A medium-sized potato contains only 80 to 90
(It's the stuff we love to put on them that adds all of the extra
Most of a potato's nutrients are located right under the potato's
If you peel your potatoes before cooking, you might be taking
of their nutrients. When you boil potatoes to use in your
boil them with their skins on and then if you want to remove the
do it after they are cooked. That way you will retain more
nutritional value than if you had peeled them first. I just
the skins on there most of the time anyway.
Did you know you can substitute potato starch for flour as a
for soups and sauces? You can also use potato starch
instead of flour
in many cookie and cake recipes. Experiment for yourself to
works best. To make your own potato starch, peel and grate
potatoes. Place the potatoes in a double layer of
squeeze the liquid from the potatoes into a bowl. Let it
a little while, and then carefully pour off the accumulated water
another bowl (to be used as added liquid in other recipes).
potato matter in the first bowl is your potato starch! Try
yourself and see what you can do with it.
If you grow your own potatoes, harvest them when the vines
and the potato skins have toughened up. You should leave
in the ground for about 2 weeks after the vines die to make sure
mature enough for harvesting.
If you buy potatoes from the store, look through the plastic
each potato as well as you can. One potato can ruin the
Select them individually if you can. Gently squeeze the
they should be firm and their skin should be tight. Make
are free of breaks and bruises (signs of rot). Sprouting
are edible, but avoid them if you can.
Store your potatoes in anything that allows air to
If possible, store in a dark, humid place at around 40 degrees
storage life (at this temperature they can last as long as the
They should be kept in the dark because light contributes to
Don't wash them until you're ready to use them--a buildup of
decay. And don't store potatoes next to onions or
exude a gas that shortens the life of the other.
To dehydrate your potatoes, wash them and cut them into 1/4
You don't even have to peel them unless you want to. Blanch
in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes and then soak them in 1/2
juice and 2 quarts cold water for about 45 minutes to keep them
while they dry--the lemon juice also helps them retain their
when you cook them. Dry your potato slices by whichever
you prefer until all the moisture is gone--they will be brittle
Store your dried potatoes in heavy-duty plastic bags, or an
and keep away from direct light. To use your dried
soak them in an equal amount of water for 25 minutes. Cook
would raw potatoes.
If you're going to try to freeze some of your potato crop,
several ways you can prepare them for freezing:
French Fries. Wash, peel, and cut into 1/4-inch
Cut slices into 1/4-inch strips, to resemble french fries.
fries in cold water for 5 minutes, drain them, and let them dry
on a towel.
Fry the potatoes in hot oil until they are pale and gold in
Spread them out on a baking sheet and freeze until just
Package the chilled fries compactly in freezer cartons, leaving
head space. Place cartons in freezer. Don't store
Mashed Potatoes. Mashed potatoes can be frozen in pint
containers for up to 4 to 6 months. Mashed potatoes can
also be formed
into patties and packaged in layers between sheets of freezer
You don't even have to thaw them out before heating--you can
in a skillet or in the oven while frozen.
Baked Potatoes. Most sources agree that baked potatoes
well. They lose their original texture and
potatoes fare better in the freezer. Cut your baked
potatoes in half
and scoop out the pulp. Mash the potato pulp and mix it
butter, and seasonings, and refill the potato halves. Wrap
with freezer paper or aluminum foil and store in freezer.
potatoes in oven at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. They can be
in the freezer for 4 to 6 months.
Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom who is the author of What's for Dinner?, an e-cookbook containing more than 250 quick easy dinner ideas. For recipes, tips to organize your home, home decorating, crafts, holiday hints, and more, visit Creative Homemaking at http://www.creativehomemaking.com.
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