Sunday, November 23, 2008

Choosing and Storing Potatoes and "New" Potatoes

Make sure when choosing potatoes that the skin of the potato is not sprouting, wrinkled, or soft (see right).

Whether you're choosing a brown (i.e. russet, baking), white potato, or yellow (i.e. yukon) potato check to make sure that the skin does not appear to be green (see below. Bottom right potato shows greening).

When potatoes are exposed to light, as they are in grocery stores and farmers markets, they begin to build up toxins. This process will manifest itself on the potato as a greening of the skin. It may appear that the green color is coming from under the native color (i.e. brown, yellow, white) of the potato. A potato that is sprouting, wrinkled, soft and/or appears to have a green coloring under its skin is bad. Eating too many green potatoes can actually be toxic to your system and make you sick. So next time you're choosing potatoes make sure to take a good look at its skin coloring and avoid the green. If you find that you have a section of your potato that has a green coloring you can go ahead and cut out this section before cooking or simply discard the potato.

fun fact: Bagged potatoes often come in a tinted, brown colored bag. These bags are designed to help reduce the potato's exposure to light thus reducing the chances that the potato will become toxic (green).

Have you heard the term "new" potatoes? Often times people think this refers to the size of the potato. A "new" potato actually means just what it sounds like, new. These are potatoes that have been harvested earlier than normal which often results in a thinner, softer, more tender skin. While these potatoes are generally smaller in size, the term "new" potato does not necessarily mean each "new" potato will be small. Sometimes called "creamers" and/or "fingerlings" (see right, do you see any bad ones?), "new" potatoes come in many colors such as red, purple, yellow, and white. Often times you can tell a "new" potato because its skin will flake off easily. Run your thumb accross the surface of a "new" potato and you'll notice that the skin comes off easily or parts of the skin may already be missing.

Make sure to store your potatoes in a cool, dry and dark environment. Avoid putting them in the refrigerator (many people do this) as it will only make the potato have an uncharacteristic sweet flavor (because the starch turns to sugar) and can result in them turning a dark color once cooked. Potatoes that are stored properly at around 50 degrees can last up to a couple of months!

Ray a.k.a. The Produce Picker

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images provided by Flickr community (ideath, chickeninthewoods, Laura Bell) via creative commons license.

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