Vincent Van Gogh's 1885 painting The Potato Eaters portrays a family of five peasants gathered around a table eating potatoes. "I have tried to emphasize that those people eating their potatoes in the lamplight have dug the earth with those very hands they put in the dish, and so it speaks of manual labor, and how they have honestly earned their food". This was said by Van Gogh in a letter to his brother, Theo.
Potatoes can be a dieter's secret weapon -- if you know how best to prepare them. Keep them away from the deep fryer or high-fat toppings, and they're excellent choices. On its own, a cooked medium-size potato has only about 200 calories, and it's very filling. Top it with yogurt and a sprinkling of chives -- you'll never miss the sour cream. Potatoes are rich in protein, iron, potassium and, if you eat the skin, fiber. They also contain glutathione, an antioxidant that may help protect against cancer. Never store potatoes in the refrigerator -- it makes them turn dark when cooked. Keep them in a cool, dark, ventilated place. Trim away any green spots before cooking.
Potatoes are available all year. Potatoes should be smooth and well shaped, and not bruised. Do not buy if they have sprouted or have a green tint to the skin (this indicates high solanine content). Store at room temperature in a dark area and do not refrigerate. Refrigeration may turn a percentage of the starch into sugar. Keep away from heat or cold.
Sweet potatoes and yams are available all year. The skin should be uniformly copper or light tan-colored. Do not purchase if they have white areas or are damaged; this probably means decay. Store in a cool, dry place and do not refrigerate.
If your kettle becomes discolored when boiling fresh sweet potatoes, try rubbing the inside of the kettle with cooking oil or margarine before adding the water and potatoes. Cleanup will be easy!
Yams are less sweet than sweet potatoes and originated in Asia.
Plenty of Potato Facts!
- The best sweet potato is called a "boniato" or "Cuban Sweet Potato" and has a very light yellow flesh.
- Sweet potatoes have ten calories per ounce less than yams.
- French fries will be deliciously golden brown if sprinkled with flour before frying.
- Ginger root stored with potatoes will help both of them stay fresh longer.
- A potato will bake faster if the skin is oiled rather than being wrapped in tin foil.
- Russets make the best mashed potatoes.
- To make potato salad more quickly, cook the potatoes already diced and peeled.
- To boil potatoes in less time, remove a small strip of skin from one side. After they are done the balance of the skin will come off much easier.
- Put a little butter in a kettle of potatoes to keep them from boiling over.
- When boiling potatoes, they may get a little mushy and be difficult to drain. Try cooking them in an electric deep fryer basket, then just remove and their drained.
- To keep peeled potatoes white, place them in a bowl of cold water, add a few drops of vinegar, and refrigerate.
- If you add hot milk to potatoes when you are mashing them it will keep them from becoming heavy and soggy.
- Baked potatoes should be pricked with a fork to release the steam as soon as they are finished baking. This will keep them from becoming soggy.
- If you add a teaspoon of baking powder to potatoes when mashing, beat them vigorously, it will make the light and creamy.
- Old potatoes should have a small amount of sugar added to the water when cooking, to help bring back some of the lost flavor.
- To keep potatoes white during cooking, add a teaspoon of white vinegar to the water.
- To re-harden potatoes, place soft raw potatoes in ice water for half an hour or until they become hard.
- If you go to a buffet and take a serving of mashed potatoes, you will probably have little or no nutrient value left. After approximately 45 minutes its all gone. Best to get them when they are first put out.
- When you see potato salad with a rich yellow flavor, it has probably been doctored with mustard or if you are unlucky an artificial yellow food color.
- Americans eat approximately 54 pounds per year, per person.
- Baking a potato with the skin will retain the highest level of nutrients. Boiling without the skin causes a 30 percent nutrient loss, and when mashed the loss can exceed 75 percent.
- If you store a boiled potato in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days you will have between 0 to 3 percent of the nutrient value left. Potatoes only store well for 1 to 2 days.
- Vichyssoise, a cold potato soup, was invented when King Louis XV of France was so worried about being poisoned that he had a number of his servants taste his food before he ate it. As they passed the soup around, it got cold by the time it reached him. He liked it so much that way that he had it served cold thereafter.
- To shorten the baking time of a potato, insert a nail (saves about 15 minutes), or boil them in salted water for about ten minutes before placing them into a very hot oven.
- Green potato skins and sprouts contain a toxin called solamine and may be hazardous to your health.
- To keep your potatoes from budding out, place an apple in the bag with the potatoes.
- When you store potatoes, place half an apple in with them and they will not sprout. The apple will absorb the moisture before the potato.
- To peel sweet potatoes easily, take them from the boiling water and immerse immediately in very cold water. The skins will almost fall off by themselves.
- Bake potatoes in muffin pans so that they will not roll around and be easier to remove from the oven.
- Brown areas on sliced potatoes mean that they have been exposed to air and light and the vitamin C has been destroyed.
- The digestive time for a medium potato is approximately two hours.
- Sweet potatoes contain the same number of calories as white potatoes. However, they contain more vitamin C and three times the beta carotene as white potatoes.
- For the best mashed potatoes ever, try using buttermilk and a small amount of the water the potatoes were boiled in. Make sure that the milk and water are still very warm before adding them to the potatoes.
- When peeling potatoes, try using a rubber Finger tip thimble on a few fingers, the ones you want to keep whole.
- Frozen, flaked, and powdered potato product sales have risen 500 percent in the last 30 years. The less a potato is processed the higher the nutritional content.
- If you leave the skins on potatoes when cooking they will retain more of their nutrient value. Then remove the skin before serving.
- The best way to tell the difference between yams and sweet potatoes is to look at the flesh, which should be orange in a sweet potato, not red. Many sweet potatoes are labeled yams by supermarkets.
- In the last 50 years, Americans are eating 50 percent less fresh potatoes.
- It is best not to eat potato skins in any form. A number of toxins and possible pesticide residues may be left even after they are cooked and washed. There are very few nutrients actually in the skin, most are just under the skin.
- The EPA has registered 90 different pesticides for use on potatoes. The FDA laboratories can only detect 55 percent of these. Most of the problem pesticides such as: Chlordane, Aldicarb, Dieldrin and DDT are for the most part in the skin. Removing the skin is the best advice.
- Potato chips were invented at Saratoga Springs, New York in 1853 when Commodore Vanderbilt complained to his steward that he made his French fries too thick, the steward who was a little put out, sliced some potatoes as thin as he could, placed them in boiling grease and served them. Needless to say the Commodore was delighted.
- In America the potato was widely appreciated after Thomas Jefferson went to France in the 1780s and gained an appreciation for French cooking. He particularly enjoyed pomme-frites (French Fries). After serving as ambassador to France, Thomas Jefferson brought the recipe for French fried potatoes to America, where he served them to guests at his Monticello home, popularizing French fries in the United States. When he became president, he had them served at White House dinners.
- Commercial potato chips are cooked in long vats of oil (75 feet long) with the oil being filtered and rarely changed. Production is about 200 pounds an hour. Since the oil is continually kept at 376 degrees, the chips should contain a high percentage of trans-acids (a harmful fat).
- Fabricated potato chips are made from dehydrated potatoes (Pringles).
- Potato or corn chips have ten times more fat than pretzels or air popped popcorn (not the microwave type).
- There are at least 28 flavors of potato chips on the market.
- There is the equivalent of 2-1/2 pats of margarine in one ounce of potato chips.
- Potato chips are 61 percent fat.
- The eyes in a potato are the indents where sprouts grow. You can grow potatoes by chopping up a seed potato into chunks with at least two or three eyes, letting the chunks dry in the sun for twenty-four hours, then planting them.
- The leaves of the potato plant are poisonous if eaten.
For the greatest gourmet French fries: Let cut potatoes stand in cold water an hour before frying. Dry thoroughly before cooking. The trick is to fry them twice. The first time, just fry them for a few minutes and drain off the grease. The second time fry them until golden brown.
Potatoes will take food stains off your fingers. Just slice it and rub the raw potato on the stains and rinse with water.
Bytes of Potato History
In the sixteenth century, while Spanish explorers introduced the potato to Europe, English explorers brought the potato to the British Isles. It then became the principal crop of Ireland. Today, Russia grows nearly 30 percent of the world's potatoes, more than any other country.
When the Spaniards brought the potato to Europe in the 1570s, Europeans were suspicious of the plant. In part, they viewed it as a food for the poor. Plus, it produced "grotesque" tubers underground and reproduced itself from those same misshapen tubers. In 1596 the Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin assigned the potato to the Solanaceae family - a nasty clan that included the deadly nightshade, henbane, and tobacco herbs long used as poisons, narcotics, and magic.
During colonial times, New Englanders - convinced that raw potatoes contained an aphrodisiac that induced behavior that shortened a person's life - fed potatoes to pigs as fodder.
Did you know?
Store bought potatoes are frequently treated with a sprouting inhibitor. If you plant them, they may not grow.
In India, McDonald's offers the McAloo Tikki burger, a spicy vegetarian patty made of potatoes and peas.
Real Potato Chips
Cut potatoes in half crosswise exposing two flat surfaces. Use a wide potato slicer and cut paper thin slices. Place individual slices on an oiled cookie sheet. Brush the tops of the potatoes with a pure vegetable oil, preferably a corn oil. Bake at 450 degrees approximately ten minutes or until golden brown. Finally, place the chips in a brown paper bag with a small amount of sea salt (1/4 teaspoon per potato) and shake. Low fat and crunchy.
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