The history of the potato has its roots (no pun intended) in the Andes Mountains of South
America. This region is constantly threatened by changing temperatures and bad soil
conditions, but the tough and durable potato found a home in its thin air.
Pre Columbian farmers first discovered and cultivated the potato some 7,000 years ago.
They were impressed by its ruggedness, storage quality and its nutritional value.
Europeans did not come in contact with the potato until as late as 1537 when the Spanish
marched through Peru. And then later, about 1570 that the first potato actually made its
way across the ocean to the continent of Europe.
Europe would wait until the 1780's before the potato gained prominence anywhere. About
1780 the people of Ireland adopted the rugged food crop. The primary reason for its
acceptance in Ireland was its ability to produce abundant, nutritious food. Unlike any
other major crop, potatoes contain most of the vitamins needed to sustain life.
Perhaps more importantly, the potato can provide this sustenance to nearly 10 people on
an acre of land. This would be one of the prime factors causing a population explosion in
the early 1800s and by the mid 1800's, the Irish would become so dependent upon this
crop that its failure would provoke a famine.
All in all there are over 150 different varieties of potatoes. They have names like AC Blue
Pride, Fabula, Viking, Yukon Gold, and Russet (Idaho potatoes are this variety). When
potatoes were first cultivated by South American Indians they grew upwards of 250
different forms of this ground plant. Even more varieties than we see in today's market,
greenhouses, amateur botanist's gardens, and scientific research gardens. Although there
are so many different types of potatoes to choose from only a select number of them are
the forms that are grown, sold, and consumed in mass proportions.
There are only a few main varieties of potatoes that make up the entire commercial
market for this popular plant crop. A lot of varieties are not considered marketable as they
are either prone to disease or they simply to do hold up well to being shipped.
In North America the potato can be separated into four main basic categories:
Russet Potatoes, Round White, Round Red, and Long White.
1) Russet potatoes, which are also known as a baking potatoes, old
potatoes and Idaho potatoes (because the state is a leader in
their production), are elliptical in shape with a brown, rough skin
and the presence of numerous eyes. Russet potatoes also have a white
flesh which is somewhat dry and â€œmealyâ€ after being cooked. The
low moisture and high starch content of russet potatoes make them an
excellent choice for creating baked, mashed, and fried potatoes.
Some well-known russet varieties include Russet Burbank and Russet
2) Round White potatoes, are medium sized potatoes, also known
almost as commonly as simply a boiling potato. Red whites have a
freckled brown skin and a waxy flesh that contains less starch and
more moisture than both the long white and russet forms of spud.
These qualities make them the best suited potato for boiling, hence
the name a boiling potato.
3) Round Red potatoes, are the exact same as round white potatoes in
almost every way except for the fact that their skin is a reddish-brown
covering and the round red is commonly grown in the Northwest of the
U.S. and the round whites the Northeast.
4) Long White potatoes, are similar in shape to russet potatoes but
they also contain a pale-grey brown skin, that is thin and has
barely visible eyes. These Long white potatoes are also sometimes
known as a white rose or California long white, also being called
after the state where they were first created. Long whites are good
for boiling, baking, or being fried. The thumb sized baby long
whites which you might sometimes find on your plate or serve
yourself are known as fingerling potatoes.
Another very common form of potato in the U.S. is the Yellow gold potato, or more
commonly known as a Yukon Gold, is an example of another type of potato called
No matter which variety of potato you usually use, remember that there are a lot of
different varieties out there for you to learn about and try.