Thousands of different varieties of potatoes are grown worldwide in a broad range of shapes, sizes and colors from tiny fingerling potatoes to the medium sized rounded reds to the larger yellow and whites and even some specialty purple varieties. Here in New England, potatoes are abundant and easy to grow and are very much a staple in our lives. Read on for five fun facts and ideas to grow, prepare, utilize and yes- even have fun with this favorite starchy vegetable that is so much a part of our everyday lives.
1. STORAGE: Potatoes may be stored for extended periods of time in a root cellar or bin or any other cool, dark, dry, well-ventilated area. Years ago, stored potatoes ensured that our forefather’s had at least some food to get them through the winter. For best results to prolong the life and quality of stored potatoes use a coarse dry brush to rub off dirt, debris and potato eye buds, then allow the potatoes to dry thoroughly before storing.
2. COOKING: Potatoes may be cooked and eaten with or without the skin as long as the skin is clean and free of potato sprouts also known as potato eyes. If a potato has a spot that has started to rot, all is not lost. The spoiled part may be cut off and the healthy part of the potato may still be used. Potatoes can be boiled, mashed, baked, fried and stuffed and can be used in main dishes and side dishes such as scalloped potatoes, potato soups, salads, bread and pancakes. For a variety of traditional and newer potato recipes please visit: http://www.mainepotatoes.com
3. POTATO PRODUCTS: The starch of the potato is also great when used as a thickener or a base for soups, stews, gravy and sauces. Alcohol, such as vodka is also made from potatoes. Companies are now exploring the possibilities of creating glues and paper products from potatoes as well.
4. POTATO PROPAGATION: Potatoes that are native, organic and harvested from gardens in your area are usually great candidates to start growing new spuds. Simply cut off a portion of the potato with the eye that has sprouted still intact and plant as tubers in the spring to grow more potatoes. Often times new potatoes are inadvertently planted in indoor worm composting bins and outdoor compost piles where the peels have been discarded. NOTE: Potato tubers, sprouts and leaves as well as any other part of a potato that may show the color green are toxic and should NEVER be ingested.
5. POTATO FUN: Potatoes may be used as a stamp pad to make wrapping paper or gift tags. Simply cut a potato in half and carve a simple design such as a circle, moon or heart with a paring knife on each half. A basic design cookie cutter may also be pressed into the potato and carved around to obtain a pattern. Dip the potato in paint and press on large sheets of paper in a pattern or on a paper bag and let dry. Use as gift wrap and gift bags or stamp on oak tag or cardstock paper to make gift tags or unique cards. This is a fun project to do with potatoes that are shriveled and past peak and you don’t won’t to throw them away without any use. The older the potato the softer it is and therefore it is easier to carve.