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(POTATOES):

In recent centuries potatoes have become the world's most important tuber crop and its fourth most important source of food energy (after rice, wheat, and maize); farmers and gardeners grow them world-wide. Growers cultivate thousands of different varieties of potato. The potato originated in the Andes, in the area of present-day Peru. Pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Andean cultures cultivated around 200 different kinds of potatoes.

Potato plants have a low-growing habit and bear white flowers with yellow stamens. They grow best in cool climates with good rainfall or irrigation such as in Maine, Idaho, Colorado, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Belarus, Germany, Peru, Poland, and Russia; but they adapt readily, and producers grow them in most temperate regions. Buds called "eyes" appear on the surface of potato tubers. Since common varieties of potatoes do not produce seeds, propagation occurs by planting pieces of existing tubers, cut to include at least one eye. After potato-plants flower, some varieties will produce little green fruits that look similar to green cherry-tomatoes. The fruit contains poisonous substances: one should not eat it.

In the 16th century, the Spaniards introduced potatoes to Europe. The name "potato" came from the Spanish word "patata". Many other European languages took forms of this Spanish name, but popular alternatives or shortened forms exist in English, such as spuds, murphies, taters, or tatties. In the Americas, Spanish-speakers use the word "papa" more commonly than "patata". Interestingly, French-speakers call the potato "pomme de terre", meaning literally "apple of earth". Dutch speakers use the similar term "aardappel". German speakers use the term "Kartoffel", which derives from an Italian equivalent of truffle.

Potatoes' skins come in the colors brown, yellow, pink, red, and purple (sometimes called "blue"). Their flesh may appear white or may reflect the color of the skin.

Potatoes have a high carbohydrate content and include protein, minerals (particularly potassium, calcium), and vitamins, including vitamin C. Potatoes also provide starch, flour, alcohol (when fermented), dextrin, and livestock fodder. New and fingerling potatoes offer the advantage that they contain fewer toxic chemicals. Such potatoes offer an excellent source of nutrition. Peeled, long-stored potatoes have less nutritional value, especially when fried, although they still have potassium and vitamin C.

Cooks and chefs can prepare potatoes for eating in numerous ways: either with their skin on or peeled, whole or cut into pieces, and with seasonings or without. The only requirement involves cooking - to break down the starch and make them edible. Most people eat potatoes hot, but several basic potato recipes involve cooking the potatoes and then eating them cold (potato salad and potato crisps). One of the most common presentation methods involves mashing potatoes: peeling, boiling, then mashing and mixing with butter, cream, or other seasonings before serving. Mashed potatoes form a major component of several traditional dishes from the British Isles such as shepherd's pie, bubble and squeak, and the 'tatties' which accompany haggis. In the United States potatoes have become one of the most widely-consumed crops, and thus have a variety of preparation methods and condiments. They are baked whole; boiled; steamed; cut into cubes and roasted; diced or sliced and fried (home fries); grated into small thin strips and fried (hash browns); grated and formed into dumplings, Rosti or potato pancakes; and cut into long, thin pieces and fried or baked (chips, traditionally called "French fries" in the United States). Potatoes also serve to make a type of pasta called gnocchi. They form one of the main ingredients in many soups like the pseudo-French vichyssoise and Albanian potato and cabbage soup. Potato chunks also commonly appear as a stew ingredient.

Common North American potato varieties: Common British potato varieties: Common French potato varieties: Other potato varieties:

*This information was provided by Megan*