This week I was torn between two topics for the Thought of the Week. Do I want to write something about potatoes or capers?!? I explained quite a bit about the latter in my post “Potato Salad with Capers and Cucumbers”, so it would have been obvious to provide you with some more exciting facts. The main ingredient in the salad, however, is the delicious tuber and therefore the decision was easy. Capers are still on my list anyway. So, be patient, I have more information on the green salty balls in the near future for you. However, today we want to talk about potatoes.
BOTANICAL I ORIGIN
Potatoes are, like tomatoes and eggplants, solanums. They originate from South America, more specifically from Chile. Spanish conquerors brought them to the world in the 16th and from then on, they launched a rapid victory march, due to their simple cultivation and their high nutritional value.
The visible shoot with leaves and flowers, however, is uneatable and the berries are even slightly toxic. Edible and nutritious is only the starchy tuber hidden in the earth. Potatoes come in countless varieties, shapes and colors. Thanks to its diverse features and its wonderful characteristics, potatoes have become one of the most important staple foods worldwide.
The potato season starts at the end of May and lasts until November:
Late May – August: new potatoes (especially delicate)
End of July – September: mid-early varieties (cultivation of the classics)
September – November: late potatoes (very well storable)
Potatoes, if they are clean and healthy, can be stored without any problem. This works best in a wooden box, in a paper bag or jute sack. Just stowed them away in a dry, airy, cool, and dark place and you have fantastic potatoes year-round.
Potatoes are divided into two groups, which determine how they are used in the kitchen. It is important to prepare potatoes in some kind of way (cook, roast, fry, …) to break down the contained starch with heat and thus make them digestible:
Group A – BOILING POTATOES
Boiling potatoes have a low starch content, which keeps them in shape. After cooking, their meat is firm, often called waxy. Boiling potatoes are suitable for dishes such as potato salad with capers and cucumbers (well, also for all other potato salad versions), gratin, fried potatoes and many more.
Group B – FLOURY POTATOES
Floury potatoes contain the most amount of starch. They tend to be dry and crumble easily when cooked. Therefore, they are perfect for the preparation of mashed potatoes, dumplings, gnocchi, …
If the potato had not been brought into the world in the sixteenth century, we would not only have one staple food less, we would also be left without its wonderful characteristics. Luckily, the starchy tuber found its way into the kitchens all around the globe and enabled the invention of French fries, potato salad or hash browns.