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Potato

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The Potato is America’s most used and favorite vegetable. They can be shredded, sauteed, scalloped, boiled, baked, fried, steamed, roasted, mashed, whipped or grilled. Spanish conquistadors brought them back from Central and South America with bad reception in Europe. The Irish had many of them in the 17th century, but the French and Italians believed they were poison. The potato plant is a poisonous plant, all parts of the plant, the leaves, the stem, the flowers, the roots and even the potato in the wild are poisonous. The Incas were able to figure out how to grow a potato without poison in it. They also invented freeze dried potatoes. Once it got to Europe, the Europeans recognized it as being similar to the deadly nightshades that they had been growing for years. In a mid 19th century blight wiped out 4 years of crop leaving about a million dead and another million sailing for America.

Potatoes can fit into three categories depending on starch content - high, medium and low. Potato starch is small granules made up of sugar strands called glucose, which are very stable until they contact heat and moisture. At 160° F, they start to fill with moisture, giving you fluffy potatoes. Too much and the granules explode, giving you gummy potatoes. High starch, or mealy potatoes, include the Russets. It was developed by horticulturist Luther Burbank, who never visited Idaho. They are best for whipping, mashing, frying and baking. Low starch, or waxy potatoes, include the Reds. Varieties of Reds include Pontiacs, La Sodas and Norlands. Medium starch potatoes include the Yukon Golds. Varieties include Kennebecs, Superiors and California Longs. They bind together well.

The best place to store potatoes is in a cool, dry and dark place. Oil on potato skin can make it crunchy, and wrapping in foil will keep from over-browning. Salt makes them taste best. A 6 ounce potato yields 100 calories, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of protein and no fat. They go great with other flavors. A gratin is like a potato casserole.

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