celebrating, and storing, the humble potato
HOW DID A PLANT FROM THE ANDES turn itself into an international star, and the world’s most-eaten vegetable, with more than 300 million metric tons consumed a year? Celebrate the humble but adaptable potato, Solanum tuberosum, with tips on growing, harvesting, and most of all storing, in case your harvest is in need of a winter home any week now. Oh, and yes, with recipes from my creative culinary colleagues—in a cross-blog recipe swap. Got one to share?
Yes, the potato has gone truly global; the intricate story of its journey through the centuries is probably best told by the International Potato Center.
China, and now India, are the biggest producers of potatoes today–once the claim of Europe, North America and the former Soviet Union–though I am hard-pressed to think of a Chinese dish featuring them. As much as I love French fries and baked (oh, and twice-baked) and crispy oven-roasted, I do also love potatoes with some kick: like Aloo Chole (Indian spiced potatoes with chickpeas), or potato salad with some Hatch chiles, perhaps, and Taquitos de Papa (anything stuffed with mashed potatoes is fine with me, actually, especially when it’s my mouth).
I COULDN’T SAY IT BETTER THAN the Farm Security Administration did to farmers and would-be farmers in the 1942 slides I borrowed from the Library of Congress (below). Potatoes, perhaps counter-intuitively, need humidity to keep well over the long haul. (Click the first thumbnail, then toggle slide to slide using the arrows by the caption.)
Last year I actually figured out the “right” storage spot at my place, and had my own potatoes right into spring. The hiding place, a closet in my mudroom, was as close as I could come to their ask of high humidity combined with dark and cold (ideally 40 degrees, but ranging from 38 to 45). First I had to cure them in a just slightly warmer place. Need all the potato harvest, curing and storage details?
THE POTATO WOULDN’T BE the fourth-most-consumed food crop in the world (behind only wheat, corn, and rice) if it weren’t relatively easy to grow. The biggest decision is what you’re going to use to hill them up, as the process of applying more soil or mulch of some kind (I used straw, above) to the rambunctious plants as they get too tall for their own good is called. Some potato-growing basics.
sources of unusual seed potatoes:
not just meat and potatoes: recipe links
THE AVERAGE AMERICAN consumed 126 pounds a year in 2008, according to the National Potato Council. But in what form? Here’s what my colleagues cooked up this week for Summer Fest:
- Alison at Food2: Boil ‘Em, Mash ‘Em, Stick ‘Em in a Stew
- Kirsten at FN Dish: Twice-Baked Potatoes
- Sara at Cooking Channel: Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes
- Healthy Eats: A Day of Potatoes: Spuds for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
- Marilyn at Simmer Till Done: Baked potatoes and vintage “junior” cookbooks
- Caron at San Diego Foodstuff: Hatch Chile Potato Salad
- Nicole at Pinch My Salt: Taquitos de Papa, made with leftover mashed potatoes
- Caroline at the Wright Recipes: Indian Spiced Potatoes with Chickpeas (Aloo Chole)
- Paige at The Sister Project: French Fries to soothe a burnt-out cook’s soul
- Cate at Sweetnicks: Bleu Cheese Potato Mashers
- Gilded Fork: A roundup of potato recipes
- Food Network UK: We Like Spuds!