Potatoes. They’re hot!
Potatoes may have a reputation as a Irish Isles staple, but did you know they were first cultivated by the Incas in the 13th century? They weren’t introduced to the British Isles until the end of the 16th century, when they began to be grown in large quantities to feed the masses during food shortages.
Now a favourite the world over, potatoes are grown in more than 125 countries and are one of the most versatile vegetables – they can be baked, fried, steamed, boiled, roasted, mashed – and more.
What’s in a potato? Nutritional benefits
Potatoes are well known for their high carbohydrate content, but they’re also a great source of vitamin C, dietary fibre, potassium, folate and niacin, as well as other important nutrients.
Despite what some people think, potatoes are fat free and contain no cholesterol. Their GI rating is generally high, but this can vary depending on the type of potato, preparation methods and what they’re eaten with.
Hot tip: It’s good to eat potato skin because many (but not all) of the potato’s nutrients are found in and just underneath it. So, if you’re peeling potatoes, try to remove just a thin layer; otherwise, a good scrub is enough.
Selecting and storing the best potatoes
When shopping for your potatoes, check the thickness of the skin. ‘Old’ or brushed potatoes have thick skin, can be stored for almost two months and are good for mashing or baking, while ‘new’ potatoes have thinner skin, make a mean potato salad and should only be kept for one week.
Potatoes should be stored in cool, dry and dark places – preferably in brown paper bags at the bottom of a cupboard.
Always clean potatoes. Cut them just before cooking to preserve nutrients.
Hot tip: To prevent cut potatoes from browning, store them in water with a squeeze of lemon.
Some more tips on cooking potatoes
There are lots of recipes that make the most of potatoes. Classic dishes include shepherd’s pie, potato soup, tuna and potato rissoles, Irish stew, and potatoes stuffed with tasty ingredients such as ham, corn, cheese and sour cream.
For something a little bit different, try:
- Adding parboiled potatoes to a lamb and peanut stir-fry
- Creating some spicy potato balls by adding ground cumin and coriander to mash, rolling into balls, coating in flour or breadcrumbs and frying in a little sunflower oil.
Whichever potatoes you choose and however you choose to cook them, you won’t be disappointed with the unlimited potential and flavours of the humble spud.