One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potatoes and More!

How many times have you stood in front of the potatoes in the store and wondered what the difference was in all those different varieties of potatoes? Or maybe you're a beginner at cooking and would like to know which potato is better for potato salad and which is best for baked potatoes. Well, I am here with your answers.

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The potato is America's most popular vegetable, they can be boiled, baked, fried, microwaved, steamed, or roasted, with or without their peels. Many people love what we call the "fully loaded" potato with butter, sour cream and cheddar cheese, but left to themselves they're quite low in calories and loaded with nutrients. The potato contains many vitamins and minerals.

A medium-sized 150g (5.3 oz) potato with the skin provides 27mg of vitamin C (45% of the Daily Value (DV)), 620mg of potassium (18% of DV), 0.2mg vitamin B6 (10% of DV) and trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc. The fiber content of a potato with skin (2g) is equivalent to that of many whole grain breads, pastas, and cereals.

Varieties

  • Russet Potatoes: This is the most widely used potato variety in the United States. A large majority is grown in the Northwest but are grown in a lot of states. These are available year-round. Russet potatoes, also called old potatoes or baking potatoes, have an oblong, elliptical shape, and a rough, netted, brown skin with numerous eyes and white flesh.

    Russets grow from 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) long and about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. These potatoes are high in starch. Russets are light and fluffy when cooked, making them ideal for baking and mashing. They are also wonderful for frying and roasting. Don't wrap them in aluminum foil while baking them; the foil traps moisture and makes the potato mushier.

    Top varieties are russet Burbank, Russet Norkotahs, Russet Arcadia, and Russet Butte.

  • Round White Potatoes: These potatoes are available year-round. Round whites are moist with low to medium starch and have smooth, light tan skin with white flesh. These are creamy in texture and hold their shape well after cooking.

    Regarded an all-purpose potato, round whites are very versatile and can be used in most potato preparations. They are well suited for boiling, roasting, frying, and mashing. Round whites hold their shaped after cooking.

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    These potatoes are grown mostly in the Northeastern United States. Round white varieties include Kennebec, Superior, and Atlantic.

  • Long White Potatoes: Long whites, also called White Rose or California Long Whites (because they were developed in California) are oval-shaped and a thin ivory white to pale gray-brown skin with imperceptible eyes. Long whites grow from 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) long and about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, medium in starch level.

    These potatoes have a firm, creamy texture when cooked. They are available spring through summer. These all-purpose potatoes are very versatile and can be used in most potato preparations. Long whites are moister than russets. You can use long whites for boiling, baking, or deep frying. Long whites keep their shape when cooked.

  • Red Potatoes: These potatoes have become more widely available and can now be found almost all year round. Red potatoes have a firm, smooth and moist texture, making them well suited for salads, roasting, boiling and steaming.

    Round reds are often referred to as "new potatoes"; however, technically, "new" refers to any variety of potatoes that is harvested before reaching maturity. They are also called red bliss potatoes or boiling potatoes and are medium-sized, round, rose to reddish-brown skinned potatoes with a dense, crisp white flesh.

    Round reds are low in starch and are sweeter tasting than round whites. Choose round reds for boiling, roasting, grilling, sautes, stews, salads, and au gratin dishes. You can serve round reds cooked whole.

  • Yellow Potatoes: These potatoes are usually round to slightly oblong shaped potatoes with thin, yellowish light brown skins, and buttery yellow to golden waxy flesh. Yellow potatoes are low to medium in starch and have a moist, creamy, succulent texture with a buttery flavor.

    With their golden color, you can be fooled into thinking that they are buttered. These potatoes are increasingly popular in the United States and are now available for most of the year. They are great for roasting, baking, boiling and steaming. They are well suited for boiling, steaming, mashing, roasting, grilling, and au gratin dishes.

    Yellow flesh potato varieties include Yukon Gold, Yellow Finn, German Butterball, Carola, Nicola, and Alby's Gold.

  • Blue and Purple Potatoes: These potatoes originated in South America and have begun to gain popularity in the United States. Blue and purple potatoes are most available in the fall. Blue and purple potatoes are probably descended from the original potatoes from Peru which were the same color.

    These relatively uncommon tubers have a subtle nutty flavor and flesh that ranges in hue from dark blue or lavender to white. Microwaving preserves the color the best, but steaming and baking are also favorable methods of preparation. Potatoes in this category hold their shape after cooking, so they're great for making potato salads and scalloped potatoes. They're not good for mashing, baking, or making fries.

    Purple flesh potato varieties include All Blue, which is dry and good for roasting; Purple Peruvian which is good fried; and Purple Viking which has good flavor and is good mashed.

  • Fingerlings: These are thumb-sized potatoes that grow to about 3 inches (7.5 cm) long and 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide. Fingerlings are thin skinned and can be cooked unpeeled: baked, boiled, steamed, fried, or roasted. They are low in starch with a waxy texture and hold together well after cooking. They are yellow fleshed with a rich, buttery texture.
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    There are many varieties of these small, finger-shaped potatoes, but they all tend to be low in starch, and great for roasting or making potato salads. Fingerling varieties include Ruby Crescent, Russian Banana, Long White, and Purple Peruvian fingerlings.

  • New Potatoes: This is a term for any variety of potato that has been harvested before it has reached maturity. (However, mature round red potatoes are also called new potatoes simply because they are small.) New potatoes are also called baby potatoes and sometimes creamers. They can be as small as marble-sized.

    New potatoes are harvested when their leaves are still green. Most potatoes are harvested after their leaves have turned yellow or brown and before their sugar has begun to convert to starch. New potatoes are thin skinned and very moist with a crisp, waxy textured flesh. New potatoes often come to market in the spring and early summer. They are never kept in storage because of their high sugar content.

    New potatoes are great for cooking whole, boiling, or pan roasting. They keep their shape after cooking and are good used in potato salads. They're more perishable than other potatoes, so use them within a few days after buying them.

Storing Potatoes

Well-matured potatoes without defects are the best keepers. Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area. They will keep about a week at room temperature and for several weeks at 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Potatoes can be stored for up to 6 months. Refrigerator temperatures are too low, which converts the potato's starch into sugar, resulting in a sweet taste. The extra sugar also causes potatoes to darken prematurely while frying. (This process can sometimes be reversed by storing the potatoes at room temperature for a week to 10 days.)

If potatoes have green patches, cut them off, as they have been exposed too long to direct lighting and will have a faintly bitter taste. The rest of the potato will taste fine. Good storage potatoes include Norkotah, Goldrush, Butte, Katahdin, Caribe, and Red Norland. Storing potatoes come from mature plants whose leafy tops have yellowed and died back. Storing potatoes should be dried or cured before they are stored. Potatoes are usually cured for a period of 4 to 5 days at about 60-70 degrees F (16-21 degrees C). Curing allows cuts and surface injuries of the tuber to "heal." A cellar is ideal, but any place where they won't be exposed to excessive heat or light will help prevent spoiling.

Using Potatoes

Here are some very basic Potato Recipes but first here is some very useful information about potato equivalents:

  • 1 lb = 4 cups diced = 1 3/4 cups mashed

This should help you figure out how many potatoes you will need for a crowd.

Basic Mashed Potatoes

  • 2 lb. potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 3/4 to 1 cup milk

Peel potatoes and cut into 2-inch pieces. (If using red potatoes, it is not necessary to peel them). In a large heavy saucepan, simmer potatoes in salted water (cover by 1 inch) for 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain in a colander. In pan or bowl, combine potatoes, butter, and 3/4 cup milk. With a potato masher, mash potatoes until smooth, adding more milk if necessary to make creamy. In pan, reheat potatoes over moderately low heat, stirring, and season with salt and pepper.

Basic Baked Potato

  • 6 medium white potatoes or russet potatoes
  • shortening (optional)

Scrub unpeeled potatoes with water. Rub with shortening to soften up skins (If you want, optional). Wrap in aluminum foil. Bake at 375 degrees F for 1- 1 1/2 hours. Or pierce potatoes with a fork to allow steam to escape. Arrange an inch apart in circle shape on a paper towel. Microwave 12- 15 minutes.

Roasted Onion Potatoes

  • 2 lb. russet potatoes, cut in a large chunks
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 envelope Lipton's Onion Soup Mix

In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place the potatoes in a roasting pan and bake for 40 minutes, turning after 20 minutes.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

  • 1 large head garlic
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 1/2 lb. russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2/3 cup half and half
  • 5 Tbsp. butter, cut into 5 pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place garlic on large square of foil. Drizzle with oil. Wrap foil around garlic to enclose. Bake garlic until soft, about 40 minutes. Cool garlic. Separate cloves. Press garlic cloves between fingertips to release from skins. Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain; return potatoes to same pot. Add garlic and mash together. Bring half and half to simmer in small saucepan. Add half and half and butter to potatoes; stir to blend. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To make this dish faster, use ready made mashed potatoes in the bag from the grocery store.

About The Author: Debra Frick is a mother of 5 and a grandmother to 8 grandsons and one granddaughter. She is a published author and poetress. Recycling and saving money are her passions. She also loves crocheting and cooking. She is also a pet rescue volunteer and has many pets of her own.

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