Discovering our food: Potatoes

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

Let’s discover today the favourite vegetable of all, adults and kids, the potato, that has truly humble beginnings, from thousands of years ago.

Discovering our food-potatoes_Popsicle Society

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!

Potatoes origins_Popsicle Society

The potatoes have its origin in Peru, Bolivia, and Mexico where it was cultivated since the times of the Aztec and Inca civilization.ย 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 chuรฑu 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 Kingย 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.

Potatoes_Popsicle Society

โ€œFor the first time in the history of western Europe, a definitive solution had been found to the food problem,โ€ 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,ย 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.

Potatoes ambient and needs_Popsicle Society

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 recipes_Popsicle Society

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.

Benefits potatoes_Popsicle Society

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.

Potatoes benefits_Popsicle Society

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!

Potatoes1_Popsicle Society

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 navigableย lake” in the world.

See you next time!

Photo credit: Pixabay & Canva edited by Popsicle Society


38 thoughts

  1. I like my taters fried or baked in a skillet, with a little olive oil, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. It’s the best! They must be cooked in a skillet, I am firm on that!

  2. Quite well written and informative. Unfortunately, many folks use potatoes in dishes by frying, and with peel mostly taken off. There are dishes like fenugreek vegetable, with which we eat potato with skin on.
    And frozen potatoes in form of smilies etc are not good for health.
    Boiled potatoes with some black pepper is good for health and tasty too.

    1. True! Many people know and eat potatoes as fries ๐ŸŸ
      I hope slowly they will find the benefits of potatoes by eating them steamed or baked with the peel on , as are really tasty ๐Ÿ˜‹
      I do like steamed potatoes seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, sat and pepper and fresh parsley! So so good ๐Ÿ˜‹

  3. There he is Potatoes๐Ÿ˜. I could only imagine a minion laughing and jumping saying potatoes๐Ÿ˜‚. I use to love potatoes, then after lot of diet changes it is not part of my diet๐Ÿ™„.hard to control my mouth often๐Ÿ˜ Wonderful history behind it isnt it๐Ÿ˜‰ Right now, you cant tempt me to have potatoes. Maybe in futureโ˜บ๏ธ my wife wil do that๐Ÿ˜‚. Have a beautiful week aheadโœจ๐Ÿค—

    1. ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช no potatoes in your diet? Wow! Congratulations! I couldnโ€™t live without them ๐Ÿคช I donโ€™t eat them often and most of the time I eat them steamed or baked but to give up to them…no way ๐Ÿคช
      Hope your diet will change soon ๐Ÿ˜‰
      Thank you Simon for stopping by!
      Wish you a wonderful week! ๐Ÿค—

  4. An excellent post on our staple food. Strangely enough, my favourites are plain boiled new potatoes (with skins). Do you know about the Irish potato famine of the 1840s? The consequent starvation caused large-scale emigration, including the ancestors of two of my grandchildren in Australia.

    1. Oh yes, I remember when my grandma used to have the garden, I couldnโ€™t wait for the new potatoes to be ready to eat! She used to boil them with the skin on, season them with salt and pepper and thatโ€™s it! Weโ€™re so so delicious!
      Yes, unfortunately doing some research for this post I have read about famine, one of the reason the potatoes were introduced in our cuisines!
      Thank you for sharing Derrick! Very appreciated!

  5. Germans have good potato. But what’s good for me isn’t for everyone.
    My friend from Peru is disappointed with the choice. We have a few different types and that’s about it. They have over 500, so I do understand the ache.

  6. Beautifully explained about grandma’s garden and potato! I am a fan of potato like fried, mashed….! Thank-you Ribana for this wonderful sharing! ๐Ÿ‘Œ ๐Ÿ˜Š โค

  7. Always love reading food history from your blog Ribby <3 Better than those in being teach in school.
    One of my favorite potato dish is Patata bravas con Alioli. Easy, fullfilling and satisfying ๐Ÿ˜‹

      1. Just stating the truth Ribby. Somehow you make veggie topic interesting to read. โค๏ธ

        By the way, I was looking at your photo (in about me page) and I had to drag my husband to my screen because I finally figure out who you remind me. You look similar to a good friend of ours in Spain when she was in her late twenties! She enjoys talking about food too and travels too โค๏ธ

      2. Really? ๐Ÿค” hmmmm…thereโ€™s another me? Interesting ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช but unfortunately Iโ€™ve never been to Spain yet, but one day ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช
        Iโ€™m really glad you like them! Actually next week will be my last this kind of post for this year and I was really hopping to get some feedback…to know if rather I continue or not…๐Ÿ˜Š Thank you always for your support! Is always very welcomed and appreciated!

      3. Well, they are fun to read, but ultimately it’s still you who should have fun writing them. I enjoy answering and posting awards, but when it started to be a burden, the fun is no longer worth it… ๐Ÿ™

  8. I certainly learned a lot about my favorite veggie in your post Ribana! I wish they would teach this stuff in school. I love potatoes boiled, baked, fried. I like some varieties with the skin on, but not all of them. It’s good to eat the skin too. I do like my french fries too! Can’t imagine not eating potatoes, I can make a whole meal of them. I really enjoy these different food posts, wonderfully done! Have a great day Ribana!๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ธโ›„๐ŸŽ„

    1. Thank you very much for your kind words Steve! Iโ€™m really pleased that you enjoy them! ๐Ÿค—
      Yes, I am a potato lover too and I can make whole meals only with potatoes ๐Ÿ˜‰
      I also could eat them every single day…baked, boiled, mashed, less fried but occasionally yes ๐Ÿ˜‰
      I was wondering if to continue with this kind of posts for next year but I guess youโ€™ve convinced me ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜Š
      Have a wonderful day Steve and Muffin! ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜ธ๐Ÿ˜ป

      1. Hi Ribana! Yes, people think I’m crazy to make a whole meal with only potatoes, but they are so good.๐Ÿ˜‹
        I doubt that I could get tired of them, especially since there is different ways to eat them.๐Ÿ˜
        Glad to hear you will continue, just make sure you enjoy it too so it doesn’t become a burden instead of being enjoyable.
        Enjoy your day Ribana!๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ˜บโ›„๐ŸŽ„

      2. Crazy? Oh common…then we are both crazy potatoes lovers ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿฅ”
        Yes, one of the most important aspects of not the most important is to enjoy what we do! If is not enjoyable anymore, soon will become past…๐Ÿคช
        Thank you very much Steve! And you have a good night! ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜ธ๐Ÿ˜ธ

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