The potato is one of the most important crops in the world. It is found worldwide and originates from a fairly restricted area in the Andes, spreading up into Mexico.
The potato has grown as a vegetable in the Andes for thousands of years, and the Incas were discovered to be eating it by the Spanish in the late 16th century. Take to Italy, it eventually spread to the rest of Europe. The original potatoes were not particularly hardy, and it took a long time for the potato to catch on in northern Europe and two centuries before it was widespread in Britain.
Because potatoes are so widely distributed, there are hundreds of varieties from which to choose. Many are suited to particular climates, and different types will be found in different countries. The main difference is the timing of the crop and there are two main groups, earlies and main-crop, which are further subdivided into first earlies and so on. The next main difference is use. Some are better for baking or roasting; others are better for boiling or frying; others for salads. Finally, and in some respects the most important criterion, is flavor. Most varieties taste quite different from each other, and many chefs have their own favorites, although this does not stop them from experimenting with different ones.
All types of potatoes are high in carbohydrates and contain a moderate amount of calories as well as healthy amounts of fiber, vitamins and minerals. The kind of potatoes that may be the healthiest are the potato varieties with darker-colored flesh, such as the Purple Viking, Yukon Gold, and Ruby Crescent. The pigments in these potatoes provide flavonoids and carotenoids that promote good health.
Potatoes are low in calories, contain no cholesterol or fat, are high in fiber, and contain significant amounts of vitamin C and potassium, as well as vitamin B-6 and iron. A medium potato will provide about 110 calories in the form of carbohydrates, and about 8 percent of your RDA of fiber. Potatoes also contain small amounts of calcium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus.
All potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, glycogen and fiber. The fiber provided by a potato helps to lower cholesterol and keep your digestive system regular. All potato varieties contain roughly the same nutrients and amounts of carbohydrates.
Sweet potatoes aren’t technically potatoes since they come from a different family of plants, but they are related. Sweet potatoes are available in orange, white, red and golden varieties and contain more manganese than regular potatoes and are high in beta-carotene. Unlike regular potatoes, they don’t contain alkaloids that may provoke an allergic response in some people.