- Food and Cooking
Potato belongs to the kingdom of plants to the order of Solanales. Potato is the tuberous part of the plant Solanum tuberosum but occasionally the term is used for the entire plant. Potato is the tuberous part of the plant that is consumed by humans and domesticated animals. Potato is indigenous to Andes mountain region and has spread all over the world in the last few centuries. Over a period of last ten thousand years, potatoes have been grown by breeding cultivars with each other. Majority of potatoes in use today are native to Chile. Potato is an important crop in Europe and Asia where they are cultivated extensively. The Spanish called the tuberous part of the plant ‘patata’ and hence it got named as potato. It takes potato plant a little over two years to complete its life cycle. Potato plants bear flowers of many colors like white, purple, red, blue. Potatoes come in many colors and the skin color of the potato tuber is imparted by the flowers of the plant. Bumblebees and insects cross pollinates potato plants. However the plant may self pollinate as well. Potato plants bear fruits but they are not consumed because they contain alkaline solanine which renders them harmful and noxious. There are thousands of varieties of potatoes and majority of them originated in South American countries.
The cultivation of potatoes has evolved over the centuries. Potatoes grow well in fertile and well drained soils. Loam soil and sandy soil, when managed for water properly are good to grow potato. Cool climate with moisture is also essential for potato growth. In order to better the genetic pool of the potatoes, interbreeding in common between cultivars. This has a secondary advantage as certain pests and diseases are weeded out automatically. Solnanum tuberosum is the most cultivated variety of potato. Species from the Andes region and Chile are mostly grown. Europeans introduced potato in North America. China, India, Russia, Ukraine, United States are the biggest producers of potato in the world. Potato has many essential nutrients useful for human body. Many vitamins, minerals and organic compounds are present in the potato. One hundred grams of potato has around eighty kilo calories of energy. Potato contains a lot of starch which is very healthy. The type of cooking done to serve potato determines the nutrient content in a potato dish. Potatoes contain traces of glycoalkolids which have certain toxic effects. Cooking potatoes destroys the harmful effects of glycoalkloids and so consumption of cooked potatoes has no harmful effects on humans or livestock. The tuberous potato generally does not contain any other toxic compounds. However traces of glycoalkoids consumed does not cause any serious illness. Potatoes are grown from seeds which should be are disease free so that healthy crop is obtained. When large farms or areas are developed for potato cultivation it is ensured that farms are chosen with respect to natural climate conditions being good for potato cultivation. Wind conditions, temperate climate, good sunshine and water availability for irrigation are factors which determine the yield and quality of the potato crop. The potato seed develops into a mature plant in five steps. In the first part, sprouts and roots begin to develop and the branches begin to grow. Stolons grow from anvils on stems. Tubers start growing on the stolons. Flowers also start developing at this time. After flowers develop, tuber starts swelling and the plant starts storing sugars. Given the right climate or soil conditions, the yield of the plants will increase. After this the tubers mature and the plant dies. Tuber skins are protected from sunlight as they can develop glycoalkoloids. Various techniques are employed by cultivators in order to prepare conducive ground for potatoes. However too much cold can damage the crop. Potatoes harvesters are employed in large farms to collect potatoes. After harvesting potato skin is treated which prevents infection and damage to the tubers.
Potatoes are used in cuisines around the world. Potatoes are cooked by boiling them in water or by frying chopped slices in oil. Roasted potato is used as well. Potatoes are washed before cooking to remove any impurities. They are used to prepare alcohol. Pets and other domesticated animals are fed potatoes. Soups and sauces contain potato starch. Potato is used in treating minor burns. Various potato dishes are prepared and used everyday all over the world. Few important potatoes preparations are potato chips, salads and fries. To prepare potato chips, potato is warmed and then thin skin of potato tuber is peeled. Potatoes are the cut into thin slices for fries. Both chips and fries are boiled in oil and served. Boiled or mashed potatoes are used in vegetable fillings, burger toppings, fishes, dumplings and pancakes. Potatoes need good conditions to prolong their shelf life. Containers which store potatoes are maintained at four degrees Celsius. There are many pests and diseases that can harm potato crop. These are regularly weeded out and chemicals are applied to keep them in check. The yield of potato is highest in New Zealand and good in other developed countries. Potatoes are available in thousands of varieties and a wide range of colors. The purple potato is extremely popular with variants like red and yellow consumed readily as well. Regular genetic research is done on potatoes in order to make them resistant to diseases and pests.