With a high crop yield at harvest, this wonderful vegetable has been the answer to several worldwide food crises.
The History of Potatoes The potato, also known as Solanum tuberosum, is a crop from the family “perennial nightshade”. It’s believed that potatoes have been cultivated as far back as 5000 BC in South America. Much later, in the latter half of the eighteenth century, potato yields outnumbered that of wheat by at least thirty times. It was this incredibly high yield ratio of the potato, along with its role in helping to relieve several worldwide food crises, which saw potatoes and corn spread across the globe. It’s valued widely for its essential role in a balanced diet, as well as for its many applications in cooking, being a main ingredient in countless recipes. In Italy alone, there are over fifty different kinds of potatoes being cultivated to this day.
Nutritional Properties While potatoes are classified as a vegetable nutritionally, unlike other vegetables they contain not just quintessential nutrients, but also large amounts of starch similar to that of grains. 100 grams of potatoes contains as little as 89kcals, and whether boiled or steamed, potatoes have virtually no fat. 19% of a potato’s weight is carbohydrate, with about 2% being made up of protein. Despite its low protein content, it contains a high concentration of the essential amino acids lysine and tryptophan. This vegetables main nutrient is starch. However some of this starch is “resistant starch” which is not digested in the stomach or intestines, but remains intact until it reaches the colon. This resistant starch acts in a similar way to dietary fibre. Potatoes also do contain a lot of dietary fibre themselves, about three grams in a hundred gram potato, and the fibre and resistant starch help to regulate sugar and fat levels in the blood. They are also rich in vitamins, with 100g of steamed potatoes containing about 5.5mg of vitamin C, an essential antioxidant. The antioxidant effects are supported by the carotenes and flavonoids also found in the starchy vegetable. Potatoes also contain vitamins B1, B6, B9 and are also one of the best sources of potassium (essential for a healthy heart). Potatoes are also naturally low in sodium, an advantage better utilised by flavouring them with spices over salt.