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POTATO

January 31, 2011 8:03 am 0 comments
Potato

Potato

Potato is one of the most popular vegetable and a favorite dish to many. It is a starchy, tuberous crop of the Solanaceae family. Potatoes have become an integral part in most of the world’s cuisine and are the world’s fourth largest food crop. There is no feast or festival without an aloo delicacy.

Originally the potato is believed to have been domesticated independently in multiple locations, but later genetic testing of the wide variety of cultivars and wild species proved a single origin for potatoes in the area of present-day southern Peru where they were domesticated 7,000–10,000 years ago. During the Inca empire following the Spanish conquest, they introduced the potato to Europe in the second half of the 16th century. This vegetable was subsequently conveyed by European mariners to territories and ports throughout the world. It became an important food staple and field crop that played a major role in the European 19th century population boom.

It remains an essential crop in Europe (especially eastern and central Europe), where per capita production is still the highest in the world, but the most rapid expansion over the past few decades has occurred in southern and eastern Asia. China is now the world’s largest potato-producing country, and nearly a third of the world’s potatoes are harvested in China and India.  The word potato comes from a Spanish word namely patata (the name used in Spain). The Spanish Royal Academy says the Spanish word is a mix of the Taino batata (sweet potato) and the Quechua papa (potato). The name potato originally referred to a type of sweet potato rather than the other way around, although there is actually no close relationship between the two plants.

Potato plants are herbaceous perennials that grow about 60 cm (24 in) high, depending on variety. In general, the tubers of varieties with white flowers have white skins, while those of varieties with colored flowers tend to have pinkish skins. There are almost about five thousand varieties of potatoes worldwide. Three thousand of them are found in the Andes alone, mainly in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and Colombia.

Potatoes yield abundantly with little effort, and adapt readily to diverse climates as long as the climate is cool and moist enough for the plants to gather sufficient water from the soil to form the starchy tubers. Originally potatoes originated from the region of southern Peru. Potatoes were first domesticated in Peru between 3000 BC and 2000 BC. Potatoes were the principal energy source for the Inca empire and the Spanish successor. The Spanish had an empire across Europe, and brought potatoes for their armies. The potato became an important staple crop in northern Europe. The potato forms an important part of the traditional cuisines of most of Europe.

Potatoes can be eaten in many ways either boiled, baked or roasted. Potato has become a major food resource in Europe and East Asia. The potato was introduced in the Philippines during the late 16th century and to Java and China during the 17th century. It was well-established as a crop in India by the late 18th century and in Africa by the mid-20th century. Potato is one vegetable that is really adored by all kids and youngsters too. Kids love to eat them in any form be it potato fry, potato curry, aloo paratha or any other dish

The potato contains vitamins and minerals. The fiber content of a potato with skin (2 g) is equivalent to that of many whole grain breads, pastas, and cereals. According to nutrition, the potato is best known for its carbohydrate content (approximately 26 grams in a medium potato). The predominant form of this carbohydrate is starch. Cooked potato starch contains about 7% resistant starch, which increases to about 13% upon cooling.

Potato grows in five phases. During the first phase, sprouts emerge and root growth begins. During the second, photosynthesis begins as the plant develops leaves and branches. New tubers develop during the third phase, which is often (but not always) associated with flowering. Tuber formation halts when soil temperatures reach 80 °F (26.7 °C); hence potatoes are considered a cool-season crop. Tuber bulking occurs during the fourth phase, when the plant begins investing the majority of its resources in its newly formed tubers. At this stage, several factors are critical to yield: optimal soil moisture and temperature, soil nutrient availability and balance, and resistance to pest attacks. The final phase is maturation: The plant canopy dies back, the tuber skins harden, and their sugars convert to starches.

Potatoes are sensitive to heavy frosts, which damage them in the ground. Even cold weather makes potatoes more susceptible to bruising and possibly later rotting, which can quickly ruin a large stored crop. Potatoes are used in many ways. They are used to brew alcoholic beverages like vodka, potcheen or akvavit. They are used as food for domestic animals. Potato starch is used in many food industries for thickening and binding of soups and sauces and as adhesive in textile industry.

In India, there are a variety of dishes made of potato like the aloo ki sabzi, batata vada, and samosa, which is spicy mashed potato mixed with a small amount of vegetable stuffed in conical dough, and deep fried. Potatoes are also a major ingredient as fast food items, such as aloo chaat, where they are deep fried and served with chutney. In Northern India, dum aloo and aloo paratha are a favorite part of the diet; the first is a spicy curry of boiled potato, the second is a stuffed chapati.

A dish called masala dosa from South India is very popular breakfast snack all over India. It is a thin pancake of rice and pulse paste rolled over spicy smashed potato and eaten with sambhar and chutney. Poori in south India is most of the times served with either aloo curry or aloo kurma. Other favorite dishes are alu tikki and pakoda items. Vada pav is another amazing fast food or street food from Mumbai made of potatoes and spices.

Potatoes are a very good source of vitamin C. They are also a good source of vitamin B6, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber.

The nutrients values of a 156 g of potato without skin in (%) are:
Vitamin C: 33

Thiamin: 11

Niacin: 11

Vitamin B6: 23

Folate: 4

Iron: 3

Magnesium: 10

Potassium: 17

Copper: 17

Dietary Fiber: 9

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