Hello my dear readers,
Another week, another Monday, but this month is holiday month so let’s say is just more bearable. Home alone is coming soon 😉
Let’s discover today the favourite vegetable of all, adults and kids, the potato, that has truly humble beginnings, from thousands of years ago.
As you probably know, Romania is not an easy country. Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful country with honourable people and possibilities to do great. It has beautiful nature, wonderful landscapes, great architecture and rich history but unfortunately corruption is the number one hobby, which leads to the actual situation.
My family was not a rich family and all the veggies that we use to eat, were grown in my grandma’s garden. Potatoes were a really very important element in our house. If we had potatoes and beans we were sure we’ll never starve.
But my grandma used to have a lot more than only potatoes and beans. She had a garden that you couldn’t see the end of it. For me it was everything! I have spent most of my childhood days in there. I was always amazed by the magic of the gardening. Seeing the plants grow and that perfume of fresh fruits and veggies, and that taste, I will never forget it!
The potatoes have its origin in Peru, Bolivia, and Mexico where it was cultivated since the times of the Aztec and Inca civilization. The earliest archaeological evidence exists on the shores of Lake Titicaca from roughly 400 BCE!
The Incas learned how to preserve this veggie by dehydrating and mashing the potatoes into a substance called chuñu which they could store it for up to 10 years, so it was considered a great insurance against crop failures. The Incas had a great reverence for potatoes, and used them to treat injuries, they even thought that they made childbirth easier.
It were introduced in Europe after the voyages of exploration and conquest of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by conquistadors from Spain, but people were hesitant to use them and it remained for a long time confined to botanical gardens as a rarity.
Eventually, explorers, merchants, and people that used to take long sea voyages noticed how long the potatoes stayed fresh and tasty, and began using them as basic rations aboard their ships.
But for many years, potatoes were accused for causing leprosy, syphilis, early death, sterility, rampant sexuality, scrofula, narcosis and for destroying the soil where it grew.
This sentiment stopped only after large scale efforts of France to find food that would sustain not only their military, but also population that was starved from continuous warfare. They saw how easy it was to grow potatoes, and how they could better feed their population with them, but they were challenged with how to convince people that potatoes should be considered food fit for humans, as up until then, they were being fed almost exclusively to animals.
The King of France Louis XVI together with the famous French botanist and chemist Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, came up with the idea to elevate potatoes in the eyes of his people, so the King gave Parmentier funds and land to grow 100 acres of potato, a royal field of potatoes, which were carefully guarded by military guards. Of course people are curious and they figured that anything worth guarding that heavily was absolutely worth stealing. And so they began to steal the potato plants for their home gardens and the plants were quickly spread. The wife of the French king, Marie Antoinette, also contributed by pining potato flowers in her curls, a move that was quickly emulated by noble ladies all across the Europe.
“For the first time in the history of western Europe, a definitive solution had been found to the food problem,” the Belgian historian Christian Vandenbroeke concluded in the 1970s. By the end of the 18th century, potatoes had become in much of Europe what they were in the Andes, a real staple.
The United States of America was the last major country who adopted potatoes in their cuisine. They spread slowly through the northern colonies, but had much of the same initial reception in North America as they did in Europe.
In 20th century, after hundreds of years of patiently waiting for the world to accept them as a vegetable with so much to offer, potatoes became accepted across entire world as one of the most beloved and produced food sources.
The high yields of potato crops allowed even the poorest farmers to produce healthy food with very little resources.
Eventually, people realized that they were one of the best veggies around, in fact, potatoes alone supply every vital nutrient except for calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D, and they went from being one of the most misunderstood product to one of the top five most important food crops on our planet, after wheat, corn, rice and sugar cane.
Today, thanks to its versatility, the potato is the vegetable with more forms of preparation. From a dietary point of view, this tuber, although rich in starches, has the advantage of containing fewer calories than bread and pasta (80 kcal per 100 g against the average 270 of bread and 346 of semolina pasta).
The classification of the varieties of potatoes is made according to the characteristics of the pulp: more solid in those with yellow paste, more powdery in those with white paste. The yellow-paste potatoes are suitable for salads, fries and cooking in which the tuber is whole or in pieces; those with white paste enhance their qualities in mashed potatoes and croquettes, and in all those preparations where they are mixed with flour.
The potato is a tuber of the Solanaceae family and needs a mild climate for cultivation, without particular excesses of cold or heat.
To cultivate the potatoes in the garden you just need to be careful to a few things: once the tubers have been planted in a well-worked and well-fertilized soil, the crop requires irrigation only when needed and a control against adversity and insects. The most important work during cultivation is the reinforcement, which also allows the elimination of most of the weeds.
If you want to know more about how to cultivate potatoes in your garden, I have found an interesting article which explain several ways of growing them in any kind of yard.
To keep the potatoes at their best, place them in a wicker basket or in a bag of breathable material such as jute, capable of limiting the presence of humidity and keep them in a cool and dark place.
Potatoes are the most used vegetable in the kitchen, perhaps due to their ease of combination and preparation in many recipes, both savory and sweet, in which potatoes are the protagonists.
In addition to more classic recipes like baked or mashed potatoes, you can prepare lots of tasty recipes! Try grating the potatoes and use them as a base for a delicious potato tart, enriched with ham and cheese!
But potatoes are so versatile that they can also be used in dough, they will give a special consistency to your potato gnocchi and an incredible softness to leavened products.
Potatoes are tubers derived from the species Solanum tuberosum. They contain potassium, vitamin C and complex carbohydrates, and are excellent for combating diabetes, anti-inflammatory and very energetic.
The queen of tubers, potatoes are rich in vitamin C, effective in limiting the damage caused by free radicals, oxygen molecules that are harmful to organic tissues. Furthermore, the presence of potassium makes it an excellent aid against hypertension.
Potato wrap packs are also useful in cases of light burns, and starch can be used to moisturize dry skin.
Potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, therefore suitable for those suffering from diabetes. In fact, complex carbohydrates must be broken down into simple sugars before being absorbed, which means that they gradually come into circulation, contributing to greater glycemic stability.
Potatoes give a strong sense of satiety and therefore help control hunger and lose weight.
Potatoes are rich in vitamin B6, a substance necessary for cell renewal, and thus maintain the health of the nervous system and a balanced state of mind. Only 100 g of baked potatoes contain 21% of the daily requirement of vitamin B6.
The potato is a food rich in fiber and this promotes proper intestinal activity. It is therefore an ingredient to be taken frequently. A single baked potato supplies almost 12% of the recommended daily amount of fiber, levels similar to those of whole grains and pasta.
If you want to enjoy all the benefits of potatoes, eat them boiled or baked and, as far as possible, also eat the peel, as it contains fiber, flavonoids, antitumor properties and other nutrients.
Avoid frying them and eating those frozen as much as possible, since the fat in which they are cooked in excess obstructs the arteries and gives the body many non healthy calories.
Did you know?
“Potatoes contain an antitumor substance, the gene chlorine acid,” explains Mary Ellen Camire, associate professor and head of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition of the University of Maine in Orono. “To get the maximum benefit from the antitumor properties of potatoes, you must also eat the peel or, alternatively, boil them without peeling them and use the cooking water for other dishes, for example soups or stews.”
Unless I do mashed potatoes, I also cook and eat them with the skin on, before even knowing they have antitumor properties. Good to know though!
How do you like to eat the potatoes?
Honestly I like them in any way possible! I am a potatoes lover, I think you got it by now 😉
Thank you all for reading!
Join me next time and let’s discover Lake Titicaca, located on the border of Bolivia and Peru, often called the “highest navigable lake” in the world.
See you next time!
Photo credit: Pixabay & Canva edited by Popsicle Society