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Potatoes


Storage

The ideal way to store potatoes is in a dark, dry place between 45 degrees F to 50 degrees F between (7-10 degrees C) as higher temperatures, even room temperature, will cause the potatoes to sprout and dehydrate prematurely. While most people do not have root cellars that provide this type of environment, to maximize the potato's quality and storage, you should aim to find a place as close as possible to these conditions. Storing them in a cool, dark closet or basement may be suitable alternatives. Potatoes should definitely not be exposed to sunlight as this can cause the development of the toxic alkaloid solanine to form.

Potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator, as their starch content will turn to sugar giving them an undesirable taste. In addition, do not store potatoes near onions, as the gases that they each emit will cause the degradation of one another. Wherever you store them, they should be kept in a burlap or paper bag.

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Origins and Culture

In 1537, in one of the valleys of the Andes, the Spaniards first came in contact with the potato. Food historian Redcliffe Salaman writes: "It was one of these valleys which witnessed the most important if less acclaimed of all the Spanish discoveries and conquests. It was in their struggle through the dense forest of the Magdalena Valley that one of the scouting parties of Gonzala Jimenez de Quesada's expedition penetrated eastward to the high plateau and in the native village of Sorocota about Lat. 7 degrees N not far from the Spanish town of Velez recorded the first encounter by a European with the potato. We are told that the natives fled at the approach of the Spaniards who entered the houses and found in them corn, beans and 'truffles'. These 'turffles' were potatoes, as the description shows. The plants produced scanty flowers of a dull purple color. The roots were 'floury of good flavor, a gift very acceptable to Indians and a dainty dish even for Spaniards'. A few months later this same expedition captured Bogota where they found that potatoes and corn were the staple foods of the people."

Since potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, they were subsequently used on Spanish ships to prevent scurvy. They were introduced into Europe via Spain, and while they were consumed by some people in Italy and Germany, they were not widely consumed throughout Europe. In northern Europe, potatoes were primarily grown in botanical gardens as an exotic novelty. Even peasants refused to eat from a plant that produced ugly, misshapen tubers and that had come from a heathen civilization. Some felt that the potato plant's resemblance to plants in the nightshade family hinted that it was the creation of witches or devils, along with the tomato and eggplant.

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Nutritional and Medicinal Properties

Potatoes are a very good source of vitamin C. They are also a good source of vitamin B6, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber.

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Basic Cooking Instructions

When preparing potatoes, remember that the skin is a concentrated source of dietary fiber. To get the most nutritional value from this vegetable, don't peel it and consume both the flesh and the skin. Just scrub the potato under cold running water right before cooking and then remove any deep eyes or bruises with a paring knife.

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