10 Things We Bet You Didn't Know About the Potato
1. The potato originated along the western South American coastline.The Incans cultivated these calorie-packed parcels into hundreds of different varieties to complement varying amounts of sunlight, soil types and moisture levels. A specific mentioned location of domestication is Lake Titicaca. Potatoes reached Europe via exploration vessels amid the 1530’s (Standage 118).
2. Potatoes were highly unpopular upon European introduction.
Europeans had no idea what a potato was. Unlike maize, another new food from the new world that shared similarities with wheat, there was no European crop that shared similarities with the potato (Standage 119).
3. Herbalists believed potatoes caused leprosy.
At the time, herbalists hypothesized that the appearance of food foretold the effect on the body. Therefore, potatoes, gnarled and ugly, signified impending leprosy (Standage 119).
4. Christians once refused to eat potatoes.
After their introduction to Europe, and in an attempt to understand what they were, clergymen searched the Bible and found no mention of a potato. Therefore, it was unfit to eat. Christians commonly refrained from its ingestion and some even considered it an object of devil worship (Standage 119-120).
5. Poisonous potatoes aren’t just for Minecraft.
European scientists grouped potatoes with the nightshade family, a group of crops known for its poisonous properties. Acting on this claim, many more families abstained from adding potatoes to their family’s dinner plates. Some people even extrapolated potatoes as an object associated with witchcraft (Standage 119-120).
6. A French scientist served as a prominent potato promoter.
Antoine Augustine Paramentier lived off a potato diet for three years while imprisoned during the Seven Year’s War. While on the diet, he noted high satiety levels and maintained physical well-being. After the war, he strongly advocated for the potato, speaking mainly to its health benefits (Standage 121-122).
7. Potato popularity led to population booms in European and Asian countries.
After the potato won the popularity battle with its enduring satiation levels, high calorie per acre ratio, and growth resiliency, many countries strongly encouraged farmers to grow potatoes. Soon, potatoes became a common staple in diets across Europe and Asia. Overtime, this led to increased population sizes throughout these continents. The country with the greatest growth? Ireland (Standage 119 & 121-3).
8. Potatoes, eaten properly, pack health benefits.
When you eat a potato, you’re consuming a veritable smorgasbord of nutrients. Your body welcomes fiber, B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium when you choose to eat this tuber. The nutrients here mentioned have the capacity to aid your body in reducing inflammation, improving bone health, increasing collagen production and maturation, reducing blood pressure, supporting heart health, improving muscle movement, stabilizing moods, increasing learning and memory, preventing cancer, absorbing fat, managing your weight, boosting metabolism and immunity and improving your skin tone. Glance back over that list and then try to tell me there aren’t one (or two) health benefits that entice you (Ware, “How can potatoes benefit my health?”).
9. Paying attention to potato portions and add-ons is essential to healthy eating.
Because potatoes rank high on the glycemic index and come loaded with carbohydrates, it is important you pay attention to your serving size if you are trying to maintain a healthy diet. Furthermore, potato plates risk dietary danger regarding our toppings of choice. So, exercise caution when dressing your potatoes if you are watching your diet (Kita, “Why Potatoes are Actually Good for You”).
10. Potatoes, cooked then cooled, may lower blood sugar levels.
This process, of cooking then cooling potatoes, produces a chemical change. A resistant starch forms and when ingested, lowers blood sugar levels. Thereby, effectively reversing the concern highlighted by its glycemic index rating (“Potatoes are actually a healthy food - without butter and other fixings”).
*If you'd like to learn more potato facts, I direct you toward Many Eats' comprehensive post: "History of the Potato: A Stupendous Spud and Global Growth."
Personal Potato Preferences
Where do we stand on the potato? We’re team potato, all the way. Our Kitchen is the “meat and potatoes” type. Not to say that potatoes accompany our every meal, but we do consume them frequently. Their versatility and neutrality strengthen their appeal. And my theory - as far as nutrition goes - while carbohydrate heavy, they still pack more of a nutritional punch than bread, rice or pasta. So, when I serve potatoes, I feel good about it.
Baked Potato Bar
Baked potatoes are not my favorite method of preparation and therefore, we rarely eat them. However, if I am going to have a baked potato, a baked potato bar is without a doubt the way to do it! The reason: it becomes the delivery system for all the delicious toppings. And, friends, I am all about the toppings.
There are so many different toppings to put on a baked potato. Check out some of these ideas:
- The Classic Baked Potato – butter, sour cream, salt and pepper
- The Loaded Baked Potato – butter, sour cream, cheese, green onions and bacon bits
- The Taco Baked Potato – butter, taco meat, cheese, salsa, olives, and sour cream
- The Chili Cheese Baked Potato – butter, chili and cheese
- The Cheddar and Broccoli Baked Potato – butter, broccoli and cheddar sauce
This night, we had Chili Cheese Baked Potatoes.
The inspiration for chili cheese baked potatoes came from a frequent, self-imposed challenge to plan a menu using as many items we have on hand as possible. Let’s run through the ingredients:
- Potatoes - on hand because I buy them in bulk and it’s an ongoing goal to use them up before they go bad
- Butter - on hand always because we cook with butter
- Chili - on hand as camping trip leftovers
- Shredded cheese - on hand always, a staple in our household
- Sour cream - on hand because we love our dairy
- Green onions - on hand frequently for much needed greenery, visual appeal and added freshness
Ingredients out and ready, it’s time to cook. How to do it?
Well, first you bake the potato. I like coating the skin in olive oil, rubbing on the salt and pepper, wrapping it in tin foil and placing it directly on a preheated 350° oven rack and cooking for an hour or until the potato is soft when squeezed. However, if you’re short on time (as I was this night) you might also consider cooking it in the microwave for five minutes at a time until it’s soft when squeezed. This method, while convenient and faster, does not leave the delicious potato aroma lingering in your household, but does solve the problem of time constraints.
While the potatoes are cooking, get your toppings ready. Warm up the chili and slice the green onions.
When you can squeeze the potatoes, remove them from the oven.
While you’re letting the potatoes cool, make yourself a side salad.
Salads are a beautiful thing. You can alter them to your personal tastes. I always start with a bed of lettuce, add on sliced onions and then other toppings that suit my fancy. This night, it was tomatoes and cashews for crunch. Once paired with tangy honey mustard dressing, you just can’t go wrong, folks. You just can’t.
Side salad complete, it’s time to finish up the potatoes. Unwrap, cut a slit in the center and add toppings in order. First the butter, to effectively saturate every part of the potato in creamy deliciousness. Next, spoon on the chili. Sprinkle on the cheese and watch as the heat of the chili melts it. Top with a dollop of Daisy (sour cream) and sliced green onions.
All that’s left is to sit down, and dig in.
Click here to download a printable Chili Cheese Baked Potato recipe from Our Kitchen.
Alright, dear friends, it’s time for you to weigh in:
- Are you team potato or team no tater?
- What’s your favorite way to top a potato?
- Are you a side salad person? If so, what are your rules for construction?
- How many of the facts we bet you didn't know, did you actually know?
We’re looking forward to hearing from you!
With Love from the Kitchen,
Did this post leave you hungry for more? If so, you'll want to check out "Our Kitchen." That's the room at Wolfe Stew where we serve ideas from Our Kitchen and ask you to share ideas from yours.
- “Potatoes are actually a healthy food – without butter and other fixings.” Consumer Reports. Washington Post, 12 Nov. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/potatoes-are-actually-a-healthy-food--without-butter-and-other-fixings/2018/11/09/3156fd76-d96d-11e8-a10f-b51546b10756_story.html, Accessed 24 Mar. 2020.
- Standage, Tom. An Edible History of Humanity. Walker Publishing Company, New York, 2009.
- Ware, Megan. Medically reviewed by Butler, Natalie. “How can potatoes benefit my health?” Medical News Today, 13 Oct. 17, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/280579, Accessed 24 Mar. 2020.
- Kita, Paul. “Why Potatoes are Actually Good for You.” Men’s Health, 9 Oct. 2019, www.menshealth.com/nutrition/a29366267/are-potatoes-healthy/, Accessed 24 Mar. 2020.