Originally from the Andes and Chile, the potato appeared in France in the 19th century and quickly became the favorite vegetable of the French. In some countries, it is the basis of the diet.
It is rich in carbohydrates which, from a nutritional point of view, classifies it in the category of starchy foods. It can be cooked in a multitude of ways and the great diversity of varieties makes it possible to vary the cooking and the flavors.
Characteristics of the potato:
- Rich in fiber;
- Source of antioxidants;
- Source of group B vitamins;
- Source of potassium;
- Source of manganese.
What is the potato?
Potato identity card
- Type: Tuber;
- Family: Solanaceae;
- Origin: Andes and Chile;
- Season: September to March;
- Color: Pale yellow, blue, purple;
- Flavor: Sweet.
At harvest, the potato is a tuber with a thin, more or less colored skin and firm flesh. It can weigh between 80 and 320g.
The potato: characteristics, benefits of this starch: understand everything in 2 min
Word from the nutritionist
The potato is a vegetable rich in carbohydrates which is why we eat it as a starch. One portion of potato corresponds to approximately 150g of baked potato.
For 100g of potato boiled in water:
|Vitamin B1||0.09 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.19 mg|
9 benefits of potatoes: why eat them?
- The potato contains phenolic acids (chlorogenic acid), flavonoids (catechins), as well as vitamin C. These antioxidant compounds protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals.
- The potato contains starch, a complex carbohydrate. A fraction of this starch is resistant starch. Like dietary fiber, resistant starch is not digested by human intestinal enzymes and is not absorbed by the small intestine. Some researchers believe that resistant starch may help reduce the risk of colon cancer. However, contradictory results obtained in animals do not make it possible to conclude in a protective effect of resistant starch against the formation of tumors in the colon. Resistant starch would also have beneficial effects on blood lipids.
- The potato is an interesting source of fiber. For example, a baked potato provides about 10% of the recommended daily intake of fiber for adults aged 19 to 50. Dietary fibers, found only in plants, include a set of substances that are not digested by the body. In addition to preventing constipation and lowering the risk of colon cancer, a diet high in fiber can help prevent cardiovascular disease, as well as control type 2 diabetes and appetite.
- There are many varieties of lectins, proteins found in plants. According to several in vitro studies, the lectin specific to the potato, called STL (Solanum Tuberosum Lectin) would have the capacity to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
- Baked potatoes (with or without the peel) are an excellent source of vitamin B6. Also called pyridoxine, this vitamin is part of coenzymes which participate in the metabolism of proteins and fatty acids as well as in the synthesis (manufacture) of neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It also helps make red blood cells and allows them to carry more oxygen. Vitamin B6 is also necessary for the transformation of glycogen into glucose and it contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system. Finally, this vitamin plays a role in the formation of certain components of nerve cells and in the modulation of hormone receptors.
- Baked potato (without the peel) is a great source of copper, and baked potato (with the peel) is a good source. As a component of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (a protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help in the body’s defense against free radicals.
- The baked potato (with the peel) is a good source of iron for men and a source for women. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the manufacture of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It should be noted that the iron contained in foods of plant origin (such as sunflower seeds) is less well absorbed by the body than the iron contained in foods of animal origin. The absorption of iron from plants is however enhanced when it is consumed with certain nutrients, such as vitamin C.
- The baked potato (with the peel) is a good source of manganese for women and a source for men. Manganese acts as a cofactor of several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals.
- Baked potato with the skin on is a good source of potassium, while baked potato without the skin is a source. Potassium is involved in cardiac and muscle contraction, the transmission of the nerve message and the secretion of gastric acid.
Choosing the right potato
Preferably buy varieties with yellow, red or blue flesh, which are richer in nutrients than white potatoes. You may have to go to the market to find them, as they are still rare in grocery stores.
Look for varieties with small, elongated tubers, such as Ratte, German Fingerling, Banana, Comma Potato, etc. Their taste is finer, and they can be served whole without overloading the plate.
The different varieties of potatoes
There are over 150 different varieties of potatoes. We find about twenty of them on our stalls which are classified according to their type of flesh and their culinary use: firm-fleshed potatoes (Amandine, Charlotte, …), with tender flesh (Agata, Monalisa ,. ..), floury flesh and the originals (Vitelotte, Bleue d’Auvergne, …).
Keep the potatoes in the dark, cool and dry. Avoid the refrigerator, as cold temperatures turn starch into sugar, an undesirable trait in the kitchen.
Preparing the potato
How to cook it? How to match it?
- Baked, in a field dress, stuffed with sour cream and chopped chives. Or Hungarian style, stuffed with a yogurt sauce, chicken broth, paprika, salt and pepper.
- Frito-follies. Cut into sticks of various sizes, roast them in the oven after having brushed them with a little olive oil and spices.
- Grate them raw and shape into pancakes that you will cook like pancakes in olive oil or butter.
- Puree, with butter, milk or cream, the zest of a lemon, garlic and parsley. Or with shallots and a creamy herb cheese. Do not hesitate to add other crushed vegetables: carrot, turnip, celeriac …
- In soups. For a long time, in Europe, the potato was mainly consumed in this way. Vichyssoise, made with leeks, potatoes, chicken broth and cream (or yogurt), remains a classic. Serve hot or cold, garnished with chives or chopped watercress. Because of its high starch content, potatoes can give consistency to any soup that is a little too light.
- In a Parisian salad. Cook them in salted water, slice them hot and marinate them in dry white wine at the rate of about 300 ml of wine per kilo of potatoes. At the last moment, season with oil and vinegar, and sprinkle with parsley or chopped chervil. You can create dozens of potato-based salads. With green beans, for example, or dandelions and bacon, or even tomatoes and tuna.
- Chips or homemade chips. Once is not custom. Cut the potatoes into thin slices, if possible with a mandolin. Soak them in cold water for ten minutes. Drain and dry in a cloth, then fry them. Drain them on absorbent paper, salt and serve hot or cold. A mixture of white, red, blue and yellow crisps will be the most beautiful effect as an aperitif, in addition to bringing the guests some healthy pigments …
- With cream. Cook them in salted water, then peel them. Cut them into thick slices, put them in a sauté pan, cover with boiling cream, season and reduce the cream by working the apples with a spatula on full heat. At the last moment, add a little raw cream.
- In the United States, they are browned (hash brown) after cooking them in salted water and chopped. Drain well and sauté in butter in a pan. Season with salt and pepper. Shape them into a slipper shape and let them color. Add, if desired, chopped onions browned in butter.
- In Europe, it is customary to mix crumbled cod and garlic with mashed potatoes: this is brandade.
- In Canada, a pie dish made from salmon and potato is prepared, while in Italy, the pie is simply made of potatoes, parmesan, ricotta and a beaten egg. A variation, torta verde, includes Swiss chard, and feta replaces Parmesan.
- In India, tubers are cooked with meat and other vegetables in a strongly spiced broth. They are also used in the preparation of samosas and pakoras, donuts that can be served with a yogurt sauce. Another classic is the green pea and potato curry.
Side effects and allergies
Alkaloids (green color on potatoes)
Potatoes contain toxic compounds called alkaloids (solanine and chaconine), which provide them with protection against various pathogens found in nature. In humans, the consumption of alkaloids can be linked to different symptoms (tingling sensation in the mouth, gastrointestinal discomfort, sweating, bronchopasm, etc.). When consumed in large quantities, alkaloids can lead to serious poisoning that can damage the central nervous system.
When their alkaloid content is high, potatoes may have a green tint or have green spots. Cooking does not destroy alkaloids and their concentration increases when the potatoes are stored at high temperature or in the light. It is therefore important to keep them away from humidity and light, to remove the green spots well or to throw away the whole potatoes if there are too many of these spots.
Cases of allergies to potatoes (raw or cooked) have been reported, mainly in children. These allergies can cause various symptoms, more or less serious19. Patatin is the protein responsible for these allergies. People who are allergic to latex may also be hypersensitive to potatoes (as well as other foods such as kiwi, banana and avocado) and vice versa. The reactions are diverse, ranging from urticaria to anaphylactic reactions. Due to the potential severity of the reactions, extra care should be taken when consuming these foods in people already sensitized to latex allergens. It is recommended to consult an allergist in order to determine the cause of the reactions to certain foods as well as the precautions to be taken.
Oral allergy syndrome
The potato is a food implicated in oral allergy syndrome. This syndrome is an allergic reaction to certain proteins from a range of fruits, vegetables and nuts. It affects some people with allergies to environmental pollens and is almost always preceded by hay fever. So when some people with ragweed allergies consume the potatoes raw (cooking usually degrades the allergenic proteins), an immunological reaction may occur. These people experience itching and burning sensations in the mouth, lips and throat. Symptoms can appear and then disappear, usually within minutes of eating or coming into contact with the offending food. In the absence of other symptoms, this reaction is not serious and the consumption of potatoes does not have to be avoided systematically. However, it is recommended to consult an allergist to determine the cause of the reactions to plant foods. The latter will be able to assess whether special precautions should be taken.
History of the potato
Appeared in the French language at the end of the 16th century, the term “patate” comes from the Spanish batata, patata, borrowed from the AraWak, an Indian language of Haiti. He pointed first to the sweet potato and then, under the influence of the English potato, the potato. As for the name “potato”, it appeared in the middle of the 17th century and first referred to Jerusalem artichoke before referring to our nightshade.
The potato is native to the Peruvian and Colombian Andes, as well as Chile. Its center of genetic diversity stretches from the tip of Argentina to the southwestern United States. In this vast territory where all climates are found, there are more than 200 wild species of Solanum, the region of Lake Titicaca (Peru and Bolivia) being the richest reservoir. It is undoubtedly in this region that it was domesticated 7,000 to 10,000 years ago, from 2 wild species.
The potato crosses the Atlantic towards Europe around 1570, by 2 channels: one Spanish and the other English. For a long time, we will be content to cultivate the plant as a curiosity or for its beauty, refusing to consume its tuber. The authorities will eventually recognize its very high productivity and nutritional properties. But they will take time to convince the people to adopt it as food. It is wars and famines that will succeed where encouragement, when not coercion, had given nothing. This is because the potato can be preserved in the ground, which makes it relatively safe from looting and fires caused by marauding armies. On the other hand, in bad years, it is much more productive than cereals.
In France, it was not really adopted until the 19th century. Indeed, the people remained very attached to their bread which they could dip in the inevitable soup which constituted the essential part of their “supper”. Once well accepted, however, it will take more and more place in the diet, to the point of constituting, in some cultures, practically the only food. This was the case in mid-19th century Ireland.
Moreover, some researchers do not hesitate to attribute to him the demographic explosion that brought the industrial revolution in its wake. First because, thanks to it, the hitherto frequent famines had disappeared. Secondly, because its large-scale production has resulted in surpluses. This has made it possible to feed an increased number of mouths, both in the countryside and in the cities, in addition to providing excellent food for livestock and poultry.
Today, the potato is, after wheat, rice and corn, the most important crop on the planet. The creation of the International Potato Center in Peru in the 1970s made it possible to develop many varieties. Cultivation techniques adapted to various climates have been developed, especially for the humid tropics of Africa and Asia. As a result, potatoes are now grown in regions where it was not possible to do so before. It represents, for the peasants of these countries, a significant income. This further contributes to improving their quality of life. In addition, a very digestible food, rich in nutrients, is added to their menu.
On the other hand, in our regions, the consumption of fresh potatoes continues to decrease in favor of that of derived products. Potato chips and fries are significantly less nutritious and much more fatty.
The ideal for growing potatoes is rich soil with a relatively low pH.
Many diseases affect this plant, the most devastating in our climates being downy mildew and scab. The first, which was the cause of the Great Famine in Ireland from 1845 to 1849, is on the rise. It is a threat even in family gardens, which are generally better protected against disease.
To prevent late blight, it is recommended to plant only certified healthy tubers from resistant varieties, to irrigate the soil avoiding watering the foliage and to practice a rotation of 4 or 5 years (this also applies to tomatoes that are very vulnerable to disease). It is also useful to stow the plants well and add mulch to isolate the foliage from the tubers as much as possible. It is recommended to make a weekly foliar application of Bordeaux mixture, a fungicide accepted in organic farming. Severely affected plants as well as the leaves of less affected plants should also be destroyed by burying them deeply, as far from the garden as possible.
The same protective measures apply for scabies. On the other hand, we do not treat with Bordeaux mixture and we take care to keep the soil constantly moist during the first weeks of tuber formation. Avoid any fertilizer or amendment that alkalizes the soil: fresh manure, especially poultry manure, lime or ash. If necessary, lower the pH by incorporating sulfur into the soil the year before growing.
Some varieties of potatoes are susceptible to cabbage rot. It is therefore better to keep them away from it in the garden.
To control the Colorado beetle, the main insect that attacks potatoes, the plants can be covered with a thin veil, which prevents the adults from landing and laying their eggs on the plants. In commercial cultivation, this technique is too expensive, but for the family vegetable garden it is affordable and it is the most ecological. Neem oil and rotenone (two plant insecticides) should only be used when absolutely necessary, as they are not selective and destroy beneficial insects.
Ecology and environment
|The Great Irish Famine
In Ireland, where the potato was by far the most important crop, the late blight epidemic struck for 4 consecutive years (1845-1848). The Irish, who practically subsisted only on the tuber, found themselves without resources. The entire dependence of this people on the potato, coupled with the indifference of the British authorities vis-à-vis their misery and suffering, turned this ecological catastrophe into a human tragedy. The food which had fought so much famines had itself become a source of famine. Out of a population of around 8 million people, 1 million Irish died of starvation while another million emigrated, mostly to America.
For the 250 years since the introduction of the potato in Europe, the varieties grown there came from an extremely small gene pool. Some had predicted this potentially explosive situation long before the Great Irish Famine. The less the genetic diversity of the potato, the greater the risk of attack by diseases or insects. So what was bound to happen happened: When late blight, a fungal disease, struck in Europe after the United States, it encountered no resistance in this genetically uniform plant population.
Preserving biodiversity is therefore essential if we want to be able to fight the increasingly virulent diseases and insects that attack the potato. Until recently, it was not uncommon to see Native Americans cultivating 5 different varieties on a single hill. In addition, cultivated varieties were readily allowed to mix with varieties or wild species growing near fields. This allowed for the creation of new cultivars, some of which, hopefully, might exhibit high natural resistance against one or other of the potato enemies. Unfortunately, this diversity risks continuing to erode since some high-yielding cultivars are being introduced today, which are gradually replacing the many local varieties.