Potato

The potato is a starchy tuber of the plant Solanum tuberosum and is a root vegetable native to the Americas. The plant is a perennial in the nightshade family Solanaceae. Wild potato species can be found throughout the Americas, from Canada to southern Chile.


The potato was originally believed to have been domesticated by Native Americans independently in multiple locations, but later genetic studies traced a single origin, in the area of present-day southern Peru and extreme northwestern Bolivia.


Table of Contents

Height(Avg)

24-30 inches


Width(Avg)

24 inches


Approximate pH

between 5.2 and 6.0


Nutrition Facts


Cooked potatoes with the skin are a good source of many vitamins and minerals, such as potassium and vitamin C.


Aside from being high in water when fresh, potatoes are primarily composed of carbs and contain moderate amounts of protein and fiber — but almost no fat.


The nutrients found in 2/3 cup (100 grams) of boiled potatoes — cooked with the skin but without salt — are:

  • Calories: 87

  • Water: 77%

  • Protein: 1.9 grams

  • Carbs: 20.1 grams

  • Sugar: 0.9 grams

  • Fiber: 1.8 grams

  • Fat: 0.1 grams

Carbs


Potatoes are mainly composed of carbs, primarily in the form of starch. The carb content ranges from 60–80% of dry weight.


Simple sugars — such as sucrose, glucose, and fructose — are also present in small amounts.


Potatoes usually have a high glycemic index (GI), making them unsuitable for people with diabetes. The GI measures how foods affect your rise in blood sugar after a meal. However, some potatoes may be in the medium range — depending on the variety and cooking methods.


Cooling potatoes after cooking may lessen their effect on blood sugar and lower their GI by 25–26%.


Fibers


Even though potatoes are not a high fiber food, they may provide a significant source of fiber for those who eat them regularly.


The level of fiber is highest in the skin, which makes up 1–2% of the potato. In fact, dried skins are about 52% fiber.


Potato fibers — such as pectin, cellulose, and hemicellulose — are mainly insoluble. They also contain varying amounts of resistant starch, a type of fiber that feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut and improves digestive health.


Resistant starch can also improve blood sugar control, moderating your rise in blood sugar after meals. Compared with hot potatoes, cooled ones offer higher amounts of resistant starch.


Protein


Potatoes are low in protein, ranging from 1–2% when fresh and 8–9% by dry weight.


In fact, compared with other common food crops — such as wheat, rice, and corn — potatoes have the lowest amount of protein. However, the protein quality of potatoes is very high for a plant — higher than that of soybeans and other legumes.

The main protein in potatoes is called patatin, which may cause allergies in some people


Vitamins and minerals


Potatoes are a good source of several vitamins and minerals, particularly potassium and vitamin C.


The levels of some vitamins and minerals drop during cooking, but this reduction can be minimized by baking or boiling them with the skin on.


Other plant compounds


Potatoes are rich in bioactive plant compounds, which are mostly concentrated in the skin.

Varieties with purple or red skin and flesh contain the highest amounts of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant.

  • Chlorogenic acid. This is the main polyphenol in potatoes.

  • Catechin. An antioxidant that accounts for about 1/3 of total polyphenol content, catechin is highest in purple potatoes.

  • Lutein. Found in potatoes with yellow flesh, lutein is a carotenoid antioxidant that may boost eye health.

  • Glycoalkaloids. A class of toxic phytonutrients produced by potatoes as a natural defense against insects and other threats, glycoalkaloids may have harmful effects in large amounts.

Types of Potatoes

  • Early Season Potatoes (Yukon Gold)

  • Mid-Season Potatoes (Russet Burbank)

  • Late Season Potatoes (Kennebec)

Varieties of Potatoes


The classic Russet, Kennebec, or Yukon Gold potatoes are great, heirloom and specialty potatoes can add new shapes, textures, colors, and diverse nutrients to your dishes.


  • Red-skinned potatoes include Strawberry Paw, Dark Red Norland, and Huckleberry (which is red on the inside)

  • Fingerlings are elongated potatoes with a fine texture. Sub-varieties include Russian Banana or French Fingerling (pink).

  • Purple potatoes have an antioxidant called anthocyanin attached to the pigment. Try Adirondack Blue or Magic Molly.

  • Peruvian varietals are often knobby and irregular, deeply colored, but these come from the birthplace of potato-growing. Peru offers the Papa Púrpura, Papa Huayro, and many more.

Planting Potatoes



Where to Plant Potatoes

  • Grow potatoes in full sun.

  • Plant potatoes in fertile, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Add several inches of aged-compost or commercial organic planting mix to planting beds before planting.

  • Loosen the soil to 18 inches (45cm) deep or grow potatoes in raised or mounded beds.

  • Do not grow potatoes where the soil is compacted, heavy with clay, or constantly wet.

  • A soil pH of 5.0 to 5.5 is best for potatoes. Alkaline soil increases the size of the crop but also increases the incidence of scab–a condition that affects the skin of the potato.

Planting Time for Early, Midseason, and Late Season Potatoes


Potato varieties are classified according to the number of days they require to come to harvest. The ideal temperature for growing potatoes is 60° to 70°F (16-21°C); temperatures greater than 80°F (26°C) are usually too warm for potatoes. Grow a variety that can come to harvest in cool to mild, not hot, weather.

  • “Early” season (early maturing) varieties require 75 to 90 cool days to reach harvest. Early potatoes are the best choice for southern regions where summers become very warm or hot.

  • “Midseason” varieties require 90 to 135 cool days to reach harvest.

  • “Late-season” (also called long season) varieties require 135 to 160 cool days to reach harvest. Late-season potatoes are a good choice for northern regions where the weather stays mild all summer.

Spring Planting Potatoes: Plant potatoes 3 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost; in Zone 7 and warmer, plant a second crop in late summer or fall. Time the planting in spring so that new foliage is not killed by the last frost.

In mild summer regions, you can plant early, mid-season, and late-maturing cultivars in spring for an extended harvest season.


Summer Planting Potatoes for Autumn Harvest: Plant potatoes no later than 12 weeks before the first expected autumn frost.


Winter Growing in Mild-Winter Regions: If you live where winters are mild and summers are hot, plant late-season potatoes in winter for harvest in mid to late spring before the weather turns hot or plant early-season potatoes in late summer for a fall crop.


Growing Potatoes in Sub-Tropical and Tropical Regions. In tropical and subtropical regions potatoes can be grown all year round, although they are best planted in summer and autumn for harvest before the rainy season.


Yield. Potatoes are highly productive and can yield 6 to 8 pounds (3-4kg) of tubers per square yard (meter).


Preparing Seed Potatoes for Planting

  • Grow potatoes from “seed potatoes.” Seed potatoes can be whole potatoes or pieces of whole potatoes.

  • Potatoes are swollen stems, not roots.

  • A seed potato must have at least one “eye” to sprout. An “eye” is a bud, a puckered spot where sprouts develop; sprouts develop stems and leaves.

  • Plant certified disease-free seed potatoes. Supermarket potatoes have been chemically treated to inhibit sprouting. Seed potatoes can be purchased at a garden center or from mail-order suppliers.

  • Store seed potatoes in the refrigerator for up to one month before planting.

  • You can plant seed potatoes whole, or cut them to about the size of a medium egg, with two or three buds apiece.

  • Two or three weeks before planting, set seed potatoes in a bright, 65° to 70°F (18-21°C) place to encourage sprouting.

  • Cut whole seed potatoes into pieces with a sharp knife two days before planting; each piece should have at least two eyes After cutting, you should let the pieces cure for one to two days at 75°F (24°C).

  • Even if you are planting whole seed potatoes, it’s best to cure them in a warm place for two days before planting; this will encourage the best growth.

  • Plant seed potatoes in a hole or trench 3 to 4 inches (7.5-10cm) deep and cover with 2 inches (5cm) of soil.

  • Plant cut pieces with the cut side down.

  • If you prefer not to dig, or if the soil is heavy clay or wet, you can lay the tubers on the soil surface and cover them with 4 to 6 inches (10-15cm) of straw or composted leaves.

Planting and Spacing Potatoes

  • Early Varieties Spacing: Sow early variety seed potatoes 8 to 14 inches (20-35cm) apart; space rows 12 to 18 inches (30-45cm) apart.

  • Late Varieties Spacing: Sow late variety seed potatoes 12 to 14 inches (30-35cm) apart; space rows 30 to 36 inches (75-90cm) apart.

  • When seedlings (developing sprouts) emerge, add the remaining 2 inches (5cm) of soil to the hole or trench.

  • Keep adding light soil as plants grow tall. Leave the top two sets of leaves exposed.

  • Potatoes also can be planted on top of the ground if they are covered with a 12-inch (30cm) thick mulch of straw or hay.

  • Each plant will produce about 5 to 10 potatoes or 3 to 4 pounds (1.3-1.8 kilo).

Care for Potatoes


Watering Potatoes:

  • Keep potatoes evenly moist but not wet; water before the soil dries out.

  • Potato tubers will rot if the soil is too wet.

  • Even soil moisture is important; fluctuations in soil moisture—wet, dry, wet—can lead to cracked or knobby tubers.

  • Mulch to protect tubers from the sun, conserve soil moisture, prevent the soil from becoming too warm, keep weeds down, and discourage pest insects.

Feeding Potatoes:

  • Feed potatoes by sprinkling 5-10-10 fertilizer across the planting bed before planting; add this again as a side dressing at midseason. Choose a fertilizer that includes calcium and magnesium.

  • Avoid giving potatoes too much nitrogen; too much nitrogen will encourage foliage growth over tuber growth.

  • Where the soil is poor, drench the soil with a cup or more of compost tea shortly after planting. Spray-mist foliage with compost tea every two weeks through the season.

Maintaining Potatoes:

  • Be careful not to compact the soil around potatoes. Use boards between rows to avoid walking on the soil.

  • Protect maturing tubers from sunlight by hilling up soil over plants or applying additional mulch to all but cover the plants. Exposed tubers will sunburn or their shoulders will become green (called greening). Green potatoes produce a chemical called solanine. Solanine is both bitter-tasting and toxic.

  • Carefully cultivate around plants or mulch to keep weeds down.

Hilling Potatoes:

  • Exposure to light can cause potato tubers to turn green; the green skin is slightly toxic.

  • Protect the tubers from light by “hilling up” soil when the green shoots or stems are about 4 to 5 inches (10.12.5cm) tall. Use a hoe to mound up soil leaving just a few leaves exposed to sunlight. Hilling will also keep the tubers cool and moist. Hill the plants again two or three weeks later.

  • Surface-planted potatoes can be filled by piling mulch deeply around the plant; you can use straw or composted leaves rather than soil.


Pests and Diseases


Pests:

  • Potatoes can be attacked by Colorado potato beetles, leafhoppers, flea beetles, and aphids. Potato beetles and flea beetles chew holes in leaves. Cover plants with floating row covers until midseason to exclude these pests.

  • Handpick both adults and larvae Colorado potato beetles and destroy them.

  • Use Bacillus thuringiensis to control potato beetles, leafhoppers, and flea beetles.

  • Knock aphids off plants with a strong blast of water.

  • Stunted plants with puckered or yellow leaves, small bumps on the tubers, or hard galls on the roots have been attacked by root-knot nematodes; destroy infected plants. To prevent nematode problems, plant a cover crop of marigolds,and apply beneficial nematodes to the soil.

Potato Diseases:

  • Potatoes are susceptible to blight and scab.

  • Spray plants with compost tea every two weeks to control blights.

  • Scab can cause potatoes to have rough skin but does not affect the eating quality of the potato. Cut away the corky areas

  • If scab is a problem, adjust the soil pH to 5.5.

  • Plant disease-resistant varieties and practice crop rotation.


Harvesting and Storing Potatoes


Harvesting Potatoes:

  • Potato stems and leaves turn brown and flowers fade as tubers below ground mature.

  • Potato tubers can be harvested at any size. Potatoes harvested before they mature are called new potatoes.

  • New potatoes can be harvested when plants are in full bloom.

  • As potatoes mature their skins harden. The skin of a new potato will easily peel off when rubbed. New potatoes cannot be stored but must be used right away.

  • A potato plant will produce 3 to 6 regular-size potatoes and a number of small ones.

  • Use a spading fork to dig up potatoes. Lift potatoes gently to avoid bruising or damaging the skins. Use your fingers to harvest potatoes if need be.

  • You can harvest the whole plant or gently break off tubers, removing a maximum of two tuber per plant if you intend to let the plant grow on and harvest again.

  • To harvest mature tubers, wait until the tops of the plants die back. Leave the tubers in the ground for a few weeks after the tops die back; this will allow the skins to toughen and the potatoes will store better.

  • Test one or two potatoes before lifting the entire crop. Use damaged potatoes immediately and store the rest in a dark, dry place, with good air circulation.

  • Potatoes can be left in the ground past maturity until the first frost, but they are most nutritious if harvested when they mature.

  • If first is not imminent and vines are not dying back, knock the vines flat or cut them with a knife to kill them. You can then proceed to harvest.

  • Early potatoes take about 60 days to reach maturity; mid-season potatoes take about 80 days; late-season potatoes need 90 days or longer to mature.

  • Protect harvested potatoes from sunlight; potatoes exposed to light will green and produce a bitter chemical compound called solanine.

  • Allow potatoes to cure before storing them. Curing will harden the skins for storage. Set tubers in a single layer in a dark place at 50° to 60°F (10-15°C) for two weeks to cure.

  • Brush excess dirt off the tubers, but don’t wash them; they are best stores with dirt on, as this helps exclude light and stop them from turning green.

  • Store potatoes at about 40° (4.4°C).

  • Potatoes will also store well in the ground as long as the weather is not too wet or warm.

  • Save the best tubers for planting next season. Don’t save potatoes that are soft or discolored. Don’t save potatoes if any of the plants have been hit by a disease.

Storing and Preserving Potatoes:

  • Store potatoes in a dark, well-ventilated place at about 40°F (4.4°C). Do not wash them before storing; allow them to air dry at 50-65°F (10-18°C) for five days before storing.

  • Potatoes will keep for about 6 months.

  • Do not refrigerate potatoes.

  • Prepared or new potatoes freeze well. Potatoes also can be dried.

Benefits


Potatoes contain important nutrients, even when cooked, that can benefit human health in various ways.

Bone health

The iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, and zinc in potatoes all help the body to build and maintain bone structure and strength.


Iron and zinc play crucial roles in the production and maturation of collagen.


Phosphorus and calcium are both important in bone structure, but it is essential to balance the two minerals for proper bone mineralization. Too much phosphorus and too little calcium result in bone loss and contribute to osteoporosis.


Blood pressure

A low sodium intake is essential for maintaining a healthy blood pressure, but increasing potassium intake may be just as important. Potassium encourages vasodilation, or the widening of the blood vessels.


Potassium, calcium, and magnesium are all present in the potato. These have been found to decrease blood pressure naturally.


Heart health


The potato’s fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 content, coupled with its lack of cholesterol, all support heart health.


Potatoes contain significant amounts of fiber. Fiber helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease.


Inflammation


Choline is an important and versatile nutrient that is present in potatoes. It helps with muscle movement, mood, learning, and memory.


It also assists in:

  • maintaining the structure of cellular membranes

  • transmitting nerve impulses

  • the absorption of fat

  • early brain development

One large potato contains 57 mg of choline. Adult males need 550 mg, and females 425 mg a day.


Cancer


Potatoes contain folate. Folate plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair, and so it prevents many types of cancer cells from forming due to mutations in the DNA.


Fiber intake from fruits and vegetables like potatoes are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.


Vitamin C and quercetin also function as antioxidants, protecting cells against damage from free radicals.


Digestion and regularity


The fiber content in potatoes helps prevent constipation and promote regularity for a healthy digestive tract.


Weight management and satiety


Dietary fibers are commonly recognized as important factors in weight management and weight loss.


They act as “bulking agents” in the digestive system. They increase satiety and reduce appetite, so a person feels fuller for longer and is less likely to consume more calories.


Metabolism


Potatoes are a great source of vitamin B6. This plays a vital role in energy metabolism, by breaking down carbohydrates and proteins into glucose and amino acids. These smaller compounds are more easily utilized for energy within the body.


Skin


Collagen is the skin’s support system. Vitamin C works as an antioxidant to help prevent damage caused by the sun, pollution, and smoke. Vitamin C also helps collagen smooth wrinkles and improve overall skin texture.


Immunity


Research has found that vitamin C may help reduce the severity and duration of a cold. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C.


Risks


The potato plant, along with the tomato and eggplant, belongs to the nightshade family. Some of these plants are poisonous, and the potato was previously thought to be inedible. The shoots and leaves of potatoes are toxic and should not be eaten.


Solanine: Potatoes that are sprouting or have green discoloration are likely to contain solanine, a toxic compound that has been found to cause circulatory and respiratory problems, as well as headaches, muscle cramps, and diarrhea. If a firm potato has sprouted or has formed “eyes,” removing all sprouts is enough. However, if the potato has shrunken or has a green hue, it should not be eaten.


Acrylamide: Studies have shown that potatoes, when cooked above 248 Fahrenheit, or 120 degrees Celsius, produce a chemical known as acrylamide. This compound is found in plastics, glues, dyes, and cigarette smoke. It has been linked to the development of several cancers. Acrylamide has neurotoxic properties, and it may have a negative impact on genes and reproductive health.


Potato chips, French fries, and processed potato products are likely to be high in acrylamides, fat and sodium. Avoiding them can help reduce acrylamide exposure.


Diabetes and obesity: Potatoes, even plain, contain high levels of simple carbohydrates. This may not be beneficial for people with diabetes or obesity when eaten in excess. Like all foods, potatoes should be eaten in moderation and as a source of carbs, like rice or pasta, rather than as a vegetable. Non-starchy vegetables should be eaten alongside potatoes for a balanced intake. Legumes, on the other hand, have been shown to reduce diabetes risk.


Beta-blockers: This is a type of medication commonly prescribed for heart disease. It can cause potassium levels to increase in the blood. High-potassium foods like potatoes should be consumed in moderation when taking beta-blockers.


Potassium: High levels of potassium in the body can pose a serious risk to those with kidney damage or kidneys that are not fully functional. Damaged kidneys may be unable to filter excess potassium from the blood, and this can be fatal.


Fertilizers: Potatoes grown in heavily fertilized soil may contain high levels of heavy metal contamination. Anyone who is concerned about this can grow their own potatoes, if they have a garden, or buy organic varieties.

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