vegetable of the month, potato

January Veggie of the Month: Potato

Potatoes often get a bad rap, but when prepared in a healthy way there are many nutritional benefits to eating potatoes!

Fun Facts:

  • There are more than 100 varieties of potatoes.
  • The white potato is referred to as the “Irish potato” because it is associated with the potato famine in Ireland in the 19th century.
  • Potatoes are not roots but specialized underground storage stems called “tubers.”
  • Some new varieties have purple/blue skin or yellow flesh.

Storage:

Even stored under the best conditions, potatoes lose some quality the longer they are stored. For best results, store in a cool, dark place with good air circulation. Do not refrigerate potatoes. Cold temperatures convert starch to sugar, giving potatoes an uncharacteristic sweet taste. The sugar caramelizes during cooking producing brown potatoes and an off flavor. Potatoes can be stored for 1-2 weeks at room temperature (65 to 70 degrees) with good results.

If potatoes start to sprout, they can still be eaten. Remove the sprouts and discard. If the potato is still firm, it is good to eat. Shriveled, wrinkled, sprouting potatoes should not be eaten. Green-skin potatoes have been exposed to too much light. A mildly toxic alkaloid called solanin forms in the skin. The green skin can simply be peeled away. Although the remaining potato is safe to eat, it will not be at its best.

Preparation & Cooking:

  • If you peel the skin off the potato, place in water immediately after peeling to prevent discoloration.
  • Potatoes can be baked, boiled, steamed, microwaved, or roasted. Stay away from frying for the best nutrition.
    • Bake. Rinse and scrub potatoes. Allow to dry slightly. To prevent a crispy skin, rub with olive oil or butter. Pierce potato with a fork prior to baking to allow steam to escape. Place in 400°F oven and bake 45 minutes or until tender.
    • Boil or Steam. Rinse, peel (if desired), and cut potatoes in 1- to 2-inch cubes into steamer or pan of boiling water. Steam or boil about 20-30 minutes for cubed potatoes and 30-40 minutes for whole potatoes. To mash, use a hand held mixer or masher until desired consistency. Add seasonings to enhance flavor.
    • Microwave. Pierce a medium-size potato with a fork before placing on a paper towel in the microwave. Cook on high for 4-6 minutes, until tender.
    • Roast. Chop potatoes into 1/2-inch sections or long strips, place in plastic bag and shake with olive oil to coat. Spread on baking sheet and roast at 450°F for 30-40 minutes, turning frequently.

Nutrition Info:

Potatoes are more than a starch. Although potatoes do contain a good amount of carbohydrate (starch and sugar) they are also a storehouse for many vitamins and minerals. With the exception of vitamin A, potatoes have at least some of just about every nutrient, including fiber! And potatoes are relatively low in calories! Skip the butter, cheese, and sour cream on your potatoes and choose fresh or dried garden herbs that enhance the flavor: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme.

Recipe: Potatoes with Garlic and Herbs

  • 8 to 10 small potatoes
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, dill or thyme leaves or 4 tsp dried
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Using a vegetable brush, gently scrub potatoes under cold running water. Do not peel the skin.
  2. Cut potatoes into cubes (about 2 cups). Place in a colander and rinse well under cool running water.
  3. Place in a saucepan with enough water to just cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cook for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  4. Meanwhile, chop the parsley until finely minced.
  5. Drain the potatoes and toss with olive oil. Add garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper and toss until combined.

Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition Facts per Serving: Calories 310; Fat 8g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 600mg; Carbohydrates 55g; Fiber 6g; Sugar 3g; Protein 7g

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!

Sources: South Dakota State University Extension; University of Illinois Extension; Montana State University Extension