Potatoes 101

Potatoes 101

potatoes_article_image2Last year, over one million acres of potatoes were planted in the United States, resulting in billions of pounds of harvested spuds. If you’re like the average American, you probably ate over 30 pounds of fresh potatoes last year. But how much do we really know about this humble root vegetable? Potatoes are nutritious, versatile and represent a major dietary staple in the US, as well as many other countries around the world. So let’s “dig in” and learn more!


Potato Varieties

  • Russet Potato: This variety is a true classic. Russets cook up soft, delicate and fluffy, and their starchy texture is perfect for baking, mashing and crisping in an oven or fryer. Their hearty skin becomes tender and chewy when cooked, and their medium sugar content makes them versatile in terms of flavor combinations.
  • Red Potatoes: The waxy texture of red potatoes gives them a creamy, velvety texture when cooked. They’re unique in that they retain their texture once cooked, so they hold up well in soups and salads, as well as being appropriate for the traditional preparation methods like mashing and roasting. Their vibrant red skin, which is also quite tender, can add color to your dish.
  • Yellow Potatoes: This variety is waxy like red potatoes, but produces a texture that is even richer. Cooked yellow potatoes are buttery, smooth, slightly sweet and perfect for grilling, roasting or mashing. Their unique flavor and texture means you can cut back on added fat in potato dishes.
  • Purple Potatoes: Besides their eye-popping color, purple potatoes are also unique for their earthy, nutty flavor. Their color is best preserved by microwaving, followed by steaming and baking, and the deep hues perfectly complement salad greens. Purple potatoes are also great for grilling.
  • Fingerling Potatoes: This oblong potato variety brings visual interest to your plate. Colored red, orange, purple or white, and often with streaks of color, they make the perfect base for a bright potato salad or a simple side dish when cut lengthwise and roasted. They are waxy and firm, with an earthy but slightly sweet flavor.

Potato Nutrition

Potatoes sometimes get a bad reputation when it comes to nutrition. If you’re willing to look past the French fry, you’ll see that potatoes have a wide range of benefits to offer.

  • A medium potato only has 110 calories, and offers 45% of your daily vitamin C, 3 grams of fiber and several phytochemicals, which have antioxidant potential.
  • Potatoes are free of sodium, cholesterol and solid fats, all of which can contribute to heart disease. They’re gluten free, too!
  • Potassium plays an important role in maintaining a healthy blood pressure, and most Americans don’t consume enough. Believe it or not, potatoes actually contain more gram-for-gram potassium than bananas, tomatoes and carrots.
  • While the skin does contain about half the fiber of a potato, more than half of a potato’s nutrients are found in the flesh. Steaming and microwaving best preserve the vitamin content of fresh potatoes.


Potato Inspiration

Potatoes are one of the most versatile vegetables in the grocery store, yet we tend to prepare them in the same one or two ways. Try some new cooking methods and flavor combinations – you may be pleasantly surprised!

  • Cut potatoes into ½” rounds, brush with olive oil, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and grill until tender. Serve with dipping sauces for a simple appetizer or side dish. For the dipping sauce, t
  • Try your hand at making samosas, a traditional Indian dish where seasoned, mashed potatoes are stuffed into homemade dough and baked or pan-fried. Use canola oil for pan-frying, as it is a heart-healthy fat.
  • Make potato nachos! Bake russet potato wedges until crisp, top with cheese, tomatoes, peppers, onions and olives, and bake until cheese is melted. Serve with guacamole and fat-free, plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream.


Images and content sourced from the National Potato Council.

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