A Potato Primer: Selection And Storage

A Potato Primer: Selection And Storage

Thanks to their versatility and variety, potatoes have become the most commonly grown vegetable in the world. In addition to the countless recipe possibilities they offer the creative cook, potatoes are quite nutritious.


A medium-sized potato contains no fat and only 110 calories. They are also a good source of vitamin C, have more potassium than bananas, and contain about 3 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.

For some extra nutritive punch, eat your potatoes with the peel on - there are extra vitamins, minerals and fiber in the peel in addition to some valuable antioxidants.

How To Purchase And Store

When buying potatoes, look for ones that are firm and smooth with no cracks, discoloration or soft spots. Store them in a cool, dry place, away from light if possible, but don't refrigerate them. If you buy bagged potatoes, it's best to remove them from the plastic bag and place them into a paper bag or cardboard box in your pantry. Should your potatoes begin to sprout, this is an indication that the storage conditions are too warm. If this happens use them as soon as possible and be sure to trim away all of the sprouts before cooking.

Potatoes can be eaten with the skin on or peeled, but you should always scrub them thoroughly just before cooking and remove any green or discolored areas and "eyes" or sprouts.

How Much To Buy

When judging the correct quantity of potatoes to buy for a particular recipe, you can use the following guidelines. Three medium potatoes equal about one pound. This is equivalent to 2 cups diced or 2 cups mashed.

Choose The Right Type Of Potato

There are a number of potato varieties commonly available in the marketplace. When choosing what type might work best in a particular recipe, you'll want to take the starch content into consideration.

Potato varieties considered to be "starchy" are lower in moisture and sugar, but higher in starch. Because of the lower sugar content, they tend to break down more when cooked, and this makes them best for baking, mashing, frying and roasting.

Waxy potatoes contain more moisture and sugar, and less starch. They generally retain their shape during cooking and work well in salads and casseroles.

A Guide To Common Potato Varieties

Here is a guide to the most commonly found varieties of potatoes and their recommended uses:

Russet Potatoes: This large, oval potato is the best-selling variety in the United States. Being rather starchy, it is perfect for mashing, baking or frying.

White Potatoes: Generally considered to be an all-purpose potato, white potatoes are frequently named for the state they are grown in. They are usually medium-sized and round and contain a moderate amount of starch, making them an acceptable choice for just about any type of preparation.

Red Potatoes: This potato is round like the white potato, but smaller overall. They fall into the waxy category, making them an appropriate choice for roasting, steaming and salads. They are often referred to as "new" potatoes due to their smaller size, but that term applies to any potato that is harvested before reaching full size, not just red potatoes.

Yellow Potatoes: The most common of the yellow-fleshed potatoes is the Yukon Gold. They are usually round, medium-sized, dense and have a creamy yellow flesh. They are an all-purpose variety, good for baking, boiling or frying, but their naturally buttery flavor really makes wonderful mashed potatoes.

Fingerling Potatoes: These potatoes are small, elongated, waxy varieties best used for steaming, boiling or in salads.

Favorite Potato Recipes

comments & replies

Thank-you for the great info on potatoes. I have heard that if your potato is green you should not eat it--it is poison. Is this true? I've always cut away any green parts and used the rest. Thank-you!

The green color results from overexposure to light - it causes an alkaloid called solanine to form. Solanine can be toxic if eaten in any quantity, but as long as you peel away the green parts, the rest of the potato is perfectly fine to eat.

Really great information on everything potatoes!

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