What is the best potato for your recipe?
A very good question that has many possible answers. Did you know that there are 6,500 varieties of potatoes?
In your supermarket or in your neighborhood store you will surely find several, it is true. But the picture changes as soon as you step foot in a supermarket with Latin products.
It is more nor I tell you if you travel to Latin America and which explorer, you immerse yourself in a local market … you will discover them in thousands of sizes and colors. And while some are more difficult to find than others, the universe of flavors, textures and colors of potatoes will surprise you.
The Solanum tuberosum plant is native to Upper Peru and northeast Bolivia. There, under adverse conditions, the Incas domesticated the plant and prepared the ground with large terraces like the ones you see when you go to Machu Pichu, to cultivate it. The potato has been the main food of that region for 8,000 years ago and arrived in European lands with the conquerors.
At first, they were very curious about the plant itself, in fact the conquerors did not consider it as food. But progressively, the potato has become a must for the European table, especially in times of war or famine.
Potato or potato?
Another of the historical curiosities of this tuber is its name. For the Aymara of the highlands, it is the ch’uqi and amqa . This last term comes from the action of “gathering” and is only used for tubers taken from the ground.
And how do we get from there to ” papa “? Because that’s what the Quechuas called it. However, “potato” turns out to combine that word with sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), since the Spanish found them quite similar and confused them. And no wonder.
From completely ignoring them to discovering the immense variety that exists of potatoes, it is logical that the confusion led them to average and, well, they began to use the potato as a generic.
Although, although in 1540 the first mention of the “potato” seems, it is in 1606 when a writing appears in which the potato is called the sweet potato. But, of course, it is a very widespread term in the peninsula but not in all.
Some some Andalusians and for the inhabitants of the Canary Islands, they are potatoes. Hence their wrinkled potatoes , how good they are.
And as it was something that the Spanish brought, in Europe the term potato was adapted to each language. This is how “potato” comes about in English. In French it is “patate”. But it is “patates” in Turkish, “potet”, “patatis” in Arabic, “potet” in Norwegian and “potatis in Swedish,” pataca “in Galician and Asturian and” práta “in Gaelic. Although “sweet potato” in Portuguese.
The new potato boom
The potato is a tuber, which evolves. Yes, there are still many varieties, but consumption and land is not the same as it was 8,000 years ago.
And thanks to the fact that Peruvian cuisine is gaining more and more relevance at an international level and that the great chefs incorporate colorful spices into their dishes to give an interesting touch to their dishes, the potato is more alive than ever.
More potato trivia and more curious potatoes
- As you may have deduced, the Galician potato is Kennebec. Cachelos is the name of the potato when it is cooked. But Kennebec is the one that normally accompanies the octopus .
- The Monalisa absorb little oil when you make them fried and when you make them cooked they do not break.
- The violet or blue are rare avis from the cupboard. If you find them, get them to give a curious color, very similar to that of the red cabbage, to your dishes. They are perfect to suffer, as you see how they accompany the Joan Roca tartar .
- The Mulberry is the potato skin and pink flesh. Quite curious, although you can get it at a gourmet store.
- The Spunta makes it easy for us to identify it. It is elongated and has a shape very similar to that of the kidney. You have it more than sight, because it is one of the most common in our stores and markets. Its skin is very fine, light brown in color and its interior is yellowish. It is very well cooked, since it retains its texture even when you spend it in the cooking time. It also works well for potato salads.
And the green potatoes? Be very careful with them.
If you buy those bags of potatoes from the supermarket, more than once you discover that one or more are green. But no matter how long you wait they won’t mature in your pantry. You must discard them.
They can be harmful and even fatal. The problem is not a lack of maturation time, but that they have been on the surface, they have been given the sun and they have formed chlorophyll and solanine. If you have put them in your cooking anyway, you will have already discovered their very bitter taste.
Solanine can cause diarrhea , headache , dizziness , vomiting , and in more severe cases (with higher doses), hallucinations , paralysis , fever, cerebral edema and, finally, death . And all for not throwing away that green potato.
How to choose your potato
In general, you can always pull the versatile if you are not very clear what you will do during the week. You can see our article on the types of potato and what each one is used for. It will get you out of doubt for sure.
But, be careful, always read the label to know when they were collected, because most likely you will find potatoes in the supermarkets that have been in cold rooms for months so they do not ripen or germinate. They will look like the new ones, but they are actually old, from the previous season.
How to preserve your potatoes
- The new ones contain more water and therefore do not hold up well to storage. In a few days they will begin to rot. Buy these to consume as soon as possible.
- Always keep them in cool and dark places. Between 7th and 10th is the ideal. I mean, don’t put them in the fridge, okay? And if there is one that is not holding the conservation, throw it away.
- They should not be kept in the fridge or refrigerator. Low temperatures favor the transformation of potato starch into simple sugars. With what they will later taste very sweet and if we fry them more acrylamide is produced, a toxic compound. The best, as I said, dark and cool place, a cupboard for example.
Can they be frozen?
- Freezing them is not recommended, since freezing feels very bad. It is not that it gets bad or it will not sit well with us.
- What happens is that it is left with a bad texture, as it dissolves and loses a lot of flavor since the starch dissolves when frozen.
- Even in recipes where the potato is not even painted, such as legumes, I recommend removing the potatoes before freezing. So in our recipe for lentils we avoid them.
- Also in meat stews , in stews or in ragout, if there are potatoes or carrots, it is good to remove them before freezing.
- And you will say, and the frozen potatoes for frying … because they sell them. These have a previous preparation, they are usually fried a few minutes before with the desired size without getting to brown. Then we let them cool and put on paper to remove excess fat. They could already be put in a zippered bag and frozen. Although it is not the most recommended, in my case, my advice is that if you are going to make chips , do it right away.
I hope that it has helped you a little more to know the wonderful world of potatoes.
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