Find the perfect potato for each recipe

By Cherie Hicks

With so many varieties of potatoes, sometimes it’s hard to decide the best way to prepare them. To help you out, the Pennsylvania Co-operative Potato Growers (PCPG), based in Harrisburg, suggests ways to store and prepare potatoes to get the maximum nutritional benefit that spuds have to offer.

When selecting your potatoes, the best ones are uniform in size. Choose potatoes that are clean, firm and smooth. Stay clear of discolored ones that have imperfections like cuts, cracks or bruises. An overexposure to light can cause potatoes to take on a greenish color and taste bitter. If your potatoes become green, peel those parts away before preparing them.

Do not wash raw potatoes before storing. This speeds the development of decay. Select a storage location that’s cool and dry. The best choice would be a well-ventilated, dark place to protect them from light exposure. Too much light may cause potatoes to sprout. If sprouting does occur, you may cut off the sprouts before preparation. If you do not have an ideal storage location, you may want to consider purchasing smaller quantities. Freezing or refrigerating potatoes may cause the starch to prematurely turn into sugar, which alters the taste of the potatoes and causes the flesh to darken when cooked.

Before cooking your potatoes, clean with a vegetable brush under cool running water. To gain the most nutritional value from your potatoes, cook and eat with the skin on. If peeling, use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife to keep the slices very thin. Many of the nutrients are present closest to the skin. When peeling potatoes in advance, cover with cold water, lemon juice or diluted vinegar to prevent browning.

pare different varieties, the PCPG offers these guidelines:

– Round Processing Whites: Round with a smooth light-to-medium buff skin and white internal flesh color. Most varieties have eyes that are shallow and well distributed. These are used mostly in production of chips.

– Round Fresh Whites: Round with smooth, light tan skin, these spuds are also called Eastern Potatoes. Round Fresh Whites are low-starch potatoes that are best used for scalloped potatoes, roasting and potato salads.

– Reds: With rosy red skin and white flesh, these potatoes are generally round, though some may be more oblong. Small red potatoes harvested before they reach maturity are low in starch and sweet in flavor. They are good for boiling, roasting and slicing. Red potatoes make an attractive potato salad when prepared with skins left on.

– Russets: Another naturally nutritious variety, russets are high in starch with a brown skin and white flesh. Russets are great for baking, mashing, and frying. Their flour-y texture when cooked makes them the ideal choice for baking and a good choice for mashed potatoes.

– Yellow Flesh: Yellow potatoes are popular for their buttery texture and do well in baking, mashing and roasting.

– Long Whites: America’s all-purpose potato, this variety is oval in shape with a thin, light tan skin and tiny “eyes.” Long whites (also called new whites) are medium-starch potatoes. They’re an excellent choice for boiling and frying.

– Specialty Potatoes: These relatively uncommon tubers have flesh that ranges in hue from dark blue or lavender to white. They have a somewhat nutty flavor. Microwaving preserves the color best, but steaming and baking are also good preparation methods.

– Organic: Organic refers to the way agricultural products are grown. Most all potato varieties can be grown organically. However, production costs for organic potatoes are higher and their production yields are lower than conventionally produced potatoes. Organic potato production removes the environmental concerns associated with pesticides and other nutrients.

Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.