While there are many varieties of potatoes, and almost as many ways to organize or classify, such as color (white, yellow, red, purple and lilac) or shape (round or long) for educational and practical purposes, this article will have potatoes fall into two easy categories—baking potatoes and boiling potatoes. The main difference between the two types is the amount and nature of starch they contain. Baking potatoes are relatively high in a starch called amylose. Boiling potatoes are low in a starch called amylopectin, which is what holds the potato together when boiling.
Some of the more common baking potatoes include Russet Burbank, Russet Arcadia, Norgold Russet, Goldrush, Norkotah, Long White, and Idaho. Baking potatoes are ideal for mashing, baking and French fries. They are also popular because they are fluffy when baked, light and creamy mashed, and delightful when fried and eaten with your favorite dipping sauce. Boiling potatoes include, round white, yellow potato, salad potato, La Soda, Yellow Finnish, Ruby Crescent and Australian Crescent. There is also an assortment of red potatoes such as round, La Rouge, Norland, Bliss and Pontiac.
Yukon Gold, Peruvian Blue, Superior, Kennebec and Katahdin are all purpose potatoes. They are moister than baking potatoes and hold together in boiling water. They can be baked, mashed and fried, but will not produce the same results as baking potatoes.
For the most part, potato planting takes place in the spring and harvesting is done by October. Potatoes are part of a 150-day growing season. The perfect environment needed for potato production includes warm days and cool nights during bulking period. This is why Washington and Idaho are leading potato producers. Thanks to modern storage buildings, potatoes are available throughout the year.
Potatoes can actually be stored in special storage facilities with controlled temperature, humidity and air circulation for up to 10 months. It is recommended to store potatoes in a cool (45 to 50 degree F) dark and dry place. Warm temperatures increase sprouting in potatoes. However, it is not recommended to store potatoes in the refrigerator since their starch turns to sugar and produces an undesirable taste. Potatoes may be stored in a perforated paper bag, and if you place an apple in with them, it will help delay the sprouting. Potatoes may be kept for up to two months, but if stored with onions, sprouting will quickly occur because onions release a natural gas that rapidly decays potatoes.
A potato is about 80% water and 20% solid. One medium-sized potato contains about 160 calories. Potatoes are low in sodium and a good source of fiber, Vitamin B6 and potassium, as well as an excellent source of Vitamin C. A medium potato also provides a healthy dose of magnesium, iron and niacin. Potatoes are healthy and a benefit to one’s diet unless they are prepared by frying, or the addition of butter, sour cream and heavy salting.