Whether mashed, baked or roasted, people often consider potatoes as comfort food. It is an important food staple and the number one vegetable crop in the world. Potatoes are available year-round as they are harvested somewhere every month of the year.
The potato belongs to the Solanaceae or nightshade family whose other members include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatillos. They are the swollen portion of the underground stem which is called a tuber and is designed to provide food for the green leafy portion of the plant. If allowed to flower and fruit, the potato plant will bear an inedible fruit resembling a tomato.
Choose potatoes with no cuts, bruises, green patches or shoots. A smooth looking potato is not necessarily better than a misshapen one as some varieties characteristically have skins that are netted or have eyes in them. A potato does not have to look good to cook well.
Potatoes are classed as either ‘waxy and smooth’, or ‘floury and fluffy’. The potatoes that are less waxy or less floury are considered general purpose potatoes and can be used for all cooking methods, however, the end result may not be as good as a potato labelled for baking, or a potato labled for mashing etc. Look for potatoes that have been cook tested and labelled accordingly, for example, ‘boiling’, ‘salads’, ‘mashing’ or ‘baking’. For best results select the right type of potato for the job.