Potatoes are an amazingly useful and popular tuberous vegetable that originated in South America. They have a mild flavour, and are starchy, which makes them smooth in texture and easy to cook with.
There are hundreds of varieties, but only a few that you can find in supermarkets. To have others you will need to grow them yourself. They come in a variety of skin and flesh colours, as well as flavours and textures. You really miss out on a lot when you only know bland commercial varieties.
Potatoes can be baked, boiled, fried, and cooked with any other technique.
Here are just a couple of varieties with different skin and flesh colours.
Imagine a potato salad made of 4 or 5 different coloured types, or purple mashed potato.
Most potato varieties in the supermarket are all-purpose ones so you don’t need to think about how to cook them, but if you’re buying heritage types it helps to understand which are waxy, which are all-purpose, and which are floury (starchy) types.
- Waxy types hold together well when cooked and are best boiled or steamed for potato salads or stews.
- Floury types go soft and fluffy when cooked, but fall apart when boiled. These should be baked or microwaved, or boiled until just tender then mashed.
- All purpose types can be used for all purposes but are not perfect for any. But they’ll do, and you won’t notice if they are all you have ever cooked with.
- Another type of potato that you won’t find in supermarkets are ‘sticky’ types, which produce a sticky flesh when cooked. I grow some of these types in my own garden.
✅ Quick Tips: Understanding your ingredients will make you a better cook, and makes it easier to understand how ingredients will work together.
Comes in many varieties
If you go to markets you are more likely to come across interesting heritage varieties that you can cook with, or grow.
Here are a few varieties that you may be familiar with:
- Pontiac. A common red skinned variety with deep eyes that are less common in supermarkets now. They often have big tubers. Good all rounder except for frying.
- Dutch Cream. My absolute favourite variety for buttery flavour and texture. Not often found in supermarkets, but you can often find them in vegetable markets. Great all-rounder.
- Desiree. A popular all-rounder that's found in supermarkets, with red skin and creamy yellow flesh.
- Coliban. Popular white skin and flesh variety. Floury and good for mashing and making chips.
- Kipfler. A knobbly fingerling that's waxy and good for salads
- Purple Congo. An old, fingerling variety that is purple with purple flesh. Floury and dry so you need to add more butter after cooking. Mash or boil
- King Edward. An old, floury variety. White with white flesh.Makes fluffy mash and roast potatoes.
- Pink Eye (Southern Gold). Cream skin with pink eyes. Delicious, yellow flesh. All-rounder.
- New potatoes. These are just small, freshly harvested potatoes of any variety. They tend to be on the waxy side until they have been stored for a while. Low GI potatoes are simply new potatoes, no mater the promotion. All freshly harvested potatoes are fairly low GI until they have been stored.
Potatoes are quite nutritious. A typical 175g cooked serving contains around: 116 Kcal, which is around half the amount of the same size serving of rice or pasta.
For every 100 g it will have about 12% of your daily requirement of potassium, 5% of carbs, and 4% of protein, 32% of Vit C, 15% of Vit B6, and 5% of magnesium, and trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, niacin, phosphorus, iron, and zinc.
Nutritionally, potatoes are best known for their carbohydrate content (approximately 26 grams in a medium potato). The predominant form of this carbohydrate is starch. A small but significant portion of this starch is resistant to digestion by enzymes in the stomach and small intestine, and so reaches the large intestine essentially intact. This resistant starch is considered to have similar physiological effects and health benefits as fiber: it provides bulk, offers protection against colon cancer, improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, lowers plasma cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, increases satiety, and possibly even reduces fat storage.
The amount of resistant starch in potatoes depends much on preparation methods. Cooking and then cooling potatoes significantly increases resistant starch. For example, cooked potato starch contains about 7% resistant starch, which increases to about 13% upon cooling
Humans can subsist healthily on a diet of potatoes and milk. Moreover, the fibre content of a potato with skin (2 grams) equals that of many whole grain breads, pastas, and cereals. Potatoes also contain an assortment of phytochemicals, such as carotenoids and polyphenols. The notion that “all of the potato’s nutrients” are found in the skin is an urban legend. While the skin does contain approximately half of the total dietary fibre, more than 50% of the nutrients are found within the potato itself. The cooking method used can significantly impact the nutrient availability of the potato.
Favourite potato recipes
Some of the most popular recipes that potatoes are used for include:
- Mashed potato
- Baked potatoes
- Potato salad
- Hash browns
Potato skins are edible so you don't have to peel them if you don't want to.
Potatoes with green skin should be thrown away as they produce the toxic substance solanine when exposed to the sun and the skin starts to turn green. Cutting off the green parts doesn't cut out the solanine.