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White potatoes, popularly called Irish potatoes because they are a staple food in Ireland, belong to the class of tuber vegetables. They form such an extensive part of the diets of the majority of people that they are generally considered the most important vegetable used by civilized man. They are usually roundish or oblong in shape and have a whitish interior and a darker colored skin.

Food Value of Potatoes

In food value, Irish potatoes are comparatively high, being in this respect about two and one-half times as great as an equal weight of cabbage, but not quite twice as great as the various root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, etc. The largest amount of this food value occurs as carbohydrate in the form of starch, there being almost no fat and very little protein in potatoes. The starch granules of potatoes are larger than the starch granules of any of the cereals, the class of foods highest in this food substance, and it is the proper cooking of this starch that makes potatoes dry and mealy. Potatoes also contain a large amount of mineral salts, much of which lies directly under the skin. Therefore, the most economical way in which to prepare potatoes is to cook them with the skins on, for then all of the mineral salts are retained and none of the material is wasted.

Selection of Potatoes

The new potato crop begins to come into the market during the summer, when potatoes are especially appetizing. However, as potatoes can be easily stored and kept very well for a considerable time, they form a large part of the winter food supply. If there is sufficient storage space, it is a wise plan to buy a large enough supply of potatoes in the fall to last for several months and then to store them for the winter. However, when this is done, care should be taken in the selection.

In the first place, the outside skin should be smooth and not scaly. Then, if possible, potatoes of medium size should be selected, rather than small ones or large ones. The small ones are not so satisfactory, because of the greater proportion of waste in peeling, while the very large ones are apt to have a hollow space in the center. To judge the quality of potatoes, a few of those to be purchased should be secured and cooked before a large number of them are bought. The soil and climatic conditions affect the quality of potatoes to such an extent that a particular kind of potato which may have been excellent last year may be entirely different in quality this year. A housewife cannot, therefore, be guided entirely by her previous knowledge of a certain kind of potato.

Care of Potatoes

Potatoes bought in quantity should be kept in a cool place and should be excluded from the light. Such care will usually prevent them from discoloring and sprouting. In case they should sprout, the sprouts should be removed at once, for the potatoes will deteriorate rapidly with such a growth. If the potatoes freeze, they may be thawed by putting them in cold water. Such potatoes, which are characterized by a peculiar sweetish taste, should be used as soon as possible after being thawed.

Preparation of Potatoes

As has already been explained, the most economical way in which to cook potatoes is with the skins on. However, when it is desired to remove the skins, they should be taken off as thinly as possible. New potatoes may be scraped, but completely matured potatoes that have been out of the ground for some time do not scrape easily and so should be pared thinly.

Potatoes lend themselves to various methods of cookery, and this is well, for although this is a food of which most persons do not tire easily, variety in the preparation of a vegetable so commonly used as the Irish potato is very much to be desired. When cooked in the skins, potatoes may be boiled, baked, or steamed. When the skins are removed, potatoes may be cooked in these ways, as well as fried, sautÚd, scalloped, creamed, etc.


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Woman's Institute Library of Cookery, Volume 2.

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