Potatoes were first cultivated 4,500 years ago in Peru, and are now the world’s fourth-largest food crop -- following corn, wheat and rice. Introduced to Europe by Spanish explorers, potatoes are said to be responsible for a quarter of European population growth and urbanization between 1700 and 1900, as people of all income levels were able to grow and consume a calorie-rich, easy-to-store food. There are now approximately 5,000 potato varieties worldwide, 3,000 of which are found in the Andes alone. In the Northeast, potatoes are harvested from summer to early winter, when the ground begins to freeze.
* Store in a cool, dark, dry place that is well-ventilated. Sunlight will cause potatoes to turn green, and high temperatures will cause sprouting and shriveling.
*To prepare, wash in cool water, scrubbing with a vegetable brush to remove any dirt. Cut out the eyes (dimples on the surface from which new plants form), and any green parts, which contain solanin (a toxin).
* Most nutrients in potatoes are found in or close to the skin, so leaving peels on during cooking or peeling as thinly as possible is a great way to maximize the nutrients your body receives.
RECIPE of the week:
Blue Potato Gnocchi
* 2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed
* 2 T. olive oil
* 2 tsp. + 1 T. salt
* Pinch nutmeg
* 4 T. Parmesan cheese (optional)
* 1 cup all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1. With a fork, poke small holes in potatoes. Place on baking pan and roast in 425-degree oven until tender.
2. When cool, peel and press through a ricer or mash with potato masher.
3. Place in bowl. Make a well in the middle of mashed potatoes, then pour in oil, teaspoon salt, nutmeg, cheese if desired, and 1/2 cup flour.
4. Work dough gently with fingertips, continuing to add all flour until completely incorporated.
6. Turn onto a floured board and work gently for two minutes more until not too sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 20-30 minutes.
7. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add remaining salt. Roll dough into logs, then cut in small pieces. Dust with flour as needed. Add to boiling water, and when pieces float, remove from water with slotted spoon.
8. To serve, saute with sage, garlic, and shallots. Toss lightly and enjoy!