The Humble Potato

We dig deep to find out how good for you the tasty tuber really is
Published February 12, 2017

Happy National Potato Lovers Month! We’re talking all about the humble spud, a tuber that’s chock-full of nutrients and easy to prepare in a number of tasty ways.

According to the Ontario Potato Board, the starchy vegetables were first found in South America, and were initially cultivated by the Inca about 6,000 years ago. Spanish explorers discovered the potato in Peru in the 16th century and brought it back home, introducing it to Europe. Eventually, the crop spread to North America, with the first permanent potato patches being established in 1719, according to Potatoes USA. This was most likely done by Scottish-Irish immigrants near Londonderry, New Hampshire.

Today, the humble vegetable is the largest fresh vegetable crop in Ontario, the primary cash crop in P.E.I., and the fourth-largest food crop in the world. According to the Idaho Potato Museum, potatoes are grown in all 50 states in the U.S. and in about 125 countries. Spuds have even gone beyond Earth, making history in 1995 as the first vegetable to be grown in space.

We love them mashed, baked, fried, roasted, smothered in cheese, paired with garlic, pureed in soups and stuffed in pierogies. Technically a carb, and often served decadently, potatoes get a bad rap. But on their own, they actually are good for you. Here’s a roundup of potato nutrition facts from PEI Potatoes:

  • Potatoes, by themselves, are naturally fat, gluten, cholesterol and sodium-free.
  • One medium-sized potato is just 100 calories.
  • Potatoes are full of micronutrients like iron, niacin, folate, thiamin and zinc.
  • They contain lots of resistant starch, which contributes to a healthy colon.
  • A medium potato can have up to 45 per cent of the daily recommended vitamin C intake and up to 18 per cent of your daily recommended intake of potassium.
  • A medium potato served without the skin contains two grams of dietary fibre, but potatoes served with the skin on can hold up to four grams.

There are several types of potatoes, all with slightly different properties. Below is a list of potato varieties, according to PEI Potatoes, which grows one-quarter of the potatoes in Canada.

Types of Potatoes

Russets: Russets are the most widely used type, with brown skin and white flesh. They’re the most common variety used for making French fries, but also work well baked, scalloped, or mashed.

Whites: These are perfect for making potato salads, stews, soups, or creamy mashed potatoes.

Reds: Potatoes with red skin are a great choice for roasting, boiling, and steaming. Leave the skins on to add some extra colour and fibre to a salad!

Yellows: Yellow-flesh potatoes, including the well-known Yukon Gold, are becoming increasingly popular in North America. The golden flesh looks like butter’s already been added, so save the calories and try seasoning them with aromatic spices.

Potato Recipe Roundup