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Potatoes

Different varieties of potatoes, ways to cook and tips for buying and storing potatoes. 

Believed to be a native vegetable of the Andes in South America, we have the early British settlers to thank for first bringing the humble potato to New Zealand in the 1880's. Fast track to today and potatoes now take the top spot, as the number one vegetable in NZ. In fact, according to the charitable trust 5+ a Day... "53% of New Zealanders now consume potatoes four times a week" Potatoes are a root vegetable and member of the nightshade family. Their starchy tuber is grown beneath the soil and harvested once mature.

Potatoes

Potato varieties grown in New Zealand

5,000 different varieties of potato exist worldwide. In New Zealand we grow about a dozen common varieties together with some local specialties. To satisfy demand, potatoes are available to buy throughout the year, with new season potatoes making an appearance in shops from August through to February. Potatoes are generally classified by their texture which determines their use in the kitchen. Here are the most common varieties available:

Way and smooth potatoes

Waxy potatoes have a high water, low starch content and hold their shape well when cooked. They're ideal for boiling, salads and casseroles.

  • Nadine
  • Draga

Floury and fluffy potatoes

Floury potatoes have a low water, high starch content and tend to break up when boiled. They're perfect for roasting, baking, mashing and fries.

  • Agria
  • Ilam Hardy
  • Fianna
  • Red Rascal

All purpose potatoes

All purpose potatoes have a moderate starch content and sit between waxy and floury varieties. They can be cooked by most methods.

  • Rua
  • Karaka
  • Vivaldi Gold
  • Moonlight
  • Frisia

New season potatoes

New season potatoes have a high water, low starch content and are great for boiling and eating in salads.

  • Perlas
  • Golden gourmets

Potato Season: 

Available year round:
Agria Potato
Agria Gourmet Potato
Golden Gourmet Potato
Nadines (White Washed) Potato
Red Potato
Red Gourmet Potato
White Gourmet Potato

Available November - January: 
Jersey Benne Potato

Available October - May:
Perla Potato

Cottage Pie

Buying potatoes

When you buy potatoes, look for a variety best suited to the dish you are planning to make. This will normally be identified on the product packaging or shelf labelling in store. Look for potatoes that have a firm texture, that are free from cuts, bruises, green patches and sprouting. If the contents of a new bag of potatoes are green, these should be returned to the retailer, as they have been exposed to excessive light during storage. If you plan to peel them, select a smoother, more even shaped potato, otherwise there is no nutritional difference between these and misshapen potatoes.

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Storage and handling

Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark, well ventilated place, ideally in a paper bag or cardboard box. Potatoes exposed to warm temperatures may begin sprouting in an attempt to grow. Sprouts should always be cut away before cooking. Whilst stored, avoid exposure to light, as this can cause a toxin called solanine to develop, which can taste bitter and turn the potatoes green. These green patches should be cut away before cooking.

Potatoes

Refrigerating potatoes is not recommended as this is believed to affect the flavour. Cold temperatures can convert a raw potato's starch to sugar, making it overly sweet and causing it to deteriorate prematurely. Potatoes can be frozen to extend their storage life but are best par-boiled or blanched for 10 minutes in a pan of boiling water before freezing. Uncooked potatoes should not be frozen.

Preparing and cooking potatoes

Bagged potatoes will often state that they have been washed. Those that don't and loose- bought potatoes need to be scrubbed or washed before cooking, to remove traces of soil. Don't wash potatoes until you're ready to cook them, as damp potatoes can spoil whilst being stored.

Fresh potatoes are a staple food and can be cooked in many different ways, adding endless variety to family meals. Kiwis enjoy eating them as French fries, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, potato chips and crispy roast potatoes. If you want to be a little bit more adventurous, you could make:

Potato nutrition facts and health benefits

The nutritional content of potatoes vary marginally across varieties, so we focus here on the typical nutrients found in kiwi spuds.

  • Natural energy for the body: Potatoes are nutrient-dense and packed with more energy than any other popular vegetable. They are simple carbohydrates and provide essential fuel to sustain the body, especially when eaten at night.
  • Good source of fibre: Fibre is essential to the process of digestion and can help the body feel satisfied for longer, so you aren't tempted to snack between meals. Leaving the skins on potatoes boosts the fibre content even more.
  • High water content: A raw potato is typically 79% water, 17% carbohydrate and 2% protein. Potatoes are rarely eaten raw because raw potato starch is poorly digested by humans. Carbohydrates are released once a potato is cooked.
  • Minimal fat and sodium: Potatoes aren't fattening - they're almost fat-free, cholesterol-free and sodium-free and can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. Care needs to be taken when selecting the ingredients to eat with the potato. Butter, oil and animal fats enhance the flavour of potatoes but they are also very high in fat content. Consider replacing these with low fat alternatives.
  • 30% of your daily vitamin C requirements: Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, especially if the skin is also consumed. Just one serve can provide 30-40% of your body's recommended daily vitamin C requirements. It's a vital nutrient to maintain a healthy immune system and tissue repair.
  • Valuable dietary source of B vitamins: The B group vitamins help prevent infections, support red blood cell health and energy release from food. Potatoes are a valuable source of B6, folate,
  • thiamin, pantothenic acid and niacin.
    Good source of antioxidants: Potato varieties with red skins and yellow flesh contain higher levels of antioxidants which may reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
  • Rich source of Iron, magnesium and potassium: Potatoes have more potassium than bananas which may benefit heart health and lower blood pressure. They are also a rich source of iron and magnesium, required for human health.

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