Potatoes 101 and 8 Potatoes You Must Try

Perhaps America’s favorite vegetable, the potato goes far beyond the classic baked Russet we all know. With thousands of varieties worldwide, ranging from tiny fingerlings to a world-record setting 8-pound Kondor, there are many delicious potatoes to try. But, potatoes weren’t always known the cross-cultural staple that they are today.  Today the potato is a vital part of the world’s food supply, the fourth most eaten plant behind maize, wheat and rice.

A Visual Guide To Potatoes:

All About Potatoes: 

Potatoes are indigenous to the Andes Mountains in South America. In the vegetable kingdom, they are a part of the Nightshade Family, which also includes tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants, chiles and tobacco. It was the Conquistadors of the Spanish kingdom, though, that were responsible for bringing this New World crop back to Europe in the 16th Century. However, the potato was very slow to catch on outside of Spain and Ireland.

It wasn’t until the late 1700s, when the Frenchman Antoine-Augustin Parmentier wrote a treatise on the benefits of eating the tubers and launched the 18th Century equivalent of a viral marketing campaign for the lowly spuds, that potatoes finally began to gain popularity in France and other parts of Europe. Classic dishes, like a puréed potato-leek soup (Potage Parmentier) and simple cubed and peeled potatoes sautéed in butter (Pommes Parmentier), still bear his name today.

Today, people across continents enjoy potatoes. China, India, Russia and Ukraine are the world’s largest potato growers, with the United States growing many potatoes as well, most notably in Idaho, which is known as “potato country.” There, in Magic Valley along the Snake River, Melissa’s grows a number of spuds, including purple potatoes, fingerlings, Ruby Golds® and Baby Dutch Yellow® Potatoes.

How To Store Potatoes

Potatoes should be kept in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. If you choose to store potatoes in a bag for more than a couple days make sure there is plenty of ventilation and that the bag is not sealed. Don’t store potatoes too close to onions, because each produce gases that increase the ripening rate of the other, causing them to spoil faster. In general, keep potatoes out of the refrigerator. Fingerlings are an exception, but they shouldn’t stay in the fridge for long—they’re best enjoyed soon after purchase. For more tips on how to keep Potatoes for longer storage click here.

The Best Way to Prepare Potatoes

Potatoes can be boiled, sautéed, fried, roasted, grilled, mashed, smashed, puréed, baked and more. Click here and here for basic knife cuts that are taught in Culinary Schools for a guide on cutting and using potatoes. Check out this Fine Cooking article to learn how to pick the best potato for your end use. Southern Food has some great tips on cooking Potatoes and check out this Huffington Post article on the best ways Potatoes can be prepared. Check out What's Cooking America for the perfect baked potato.

Featured Potato Recipes:

Garlic Smashed Potatoes

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