Today is National Potato Day so I thought of gathering my favourite potato recipes and telling you a little bit about Irish love affair with this humble spud and about the spud itself.
The origins of the potato can be traced to the highlands of the Peruvian Andes-mountains in South America on the border between Bolivia and Peru, 8,000 years ago. There, research indicates, communities of hunters and gatherers who had first entered the South American continent at least 7,000 years before began domesticating wild potato plants that grew around the lake in abundance. Some 200 species of wild potatoes are found in the Americas.
It is thought that the potato reached Europe in the hands of returning Spanish explorers around 1570. How the potato came to be introduced into Ireland is not precisely known, though popular myth credits its introduction at Youghal, Co. Cork by Sir Walter Raleigh. Other anecdotal evidence suggest that the potato was washed up on the shores of Cork after the wreck of the Spanish Armada in the area.
The “Great Famine” in Ireland from 1845-1849 was caused because the potato crop became diseased. At the height of the famine at least one million people died of starvation. This famine left many poverty stricken families with no choice but to struggle for survival or emigrate out of Ireland. Towns became deserted, and shops closed because store owners were forced to emigrate due to the amount of unemployment. Over one and a half million people left Ireland for North America and Australia. Over just a few years, the population of Ireland dropped by one half, from about 9 million to little more than 4 million.
There are now over a thousand different types of potatoes. Potatoes have become an integral part of much of the world’s cuisine. It is the world’s fourth-largest food crop, following rice, wheat, and maize.
In Europe per capita production is still the highest in the world, but the most rapid expansion over the past few decades has occurred in southern and eastern Asia. Potato consumption is expanding strongly in developing countries, which now account for more than half of the global harvest and where the potato’s ease of cultivation and high energy content have made it a valuable cash crop for millions of farmers. China is now the world’s largest potato-producing country, and nearly a third of the world’s potatoes are harvested in China and India.
VARIETIES (most popular ones)
Golden wonder - This is a very tasty traditional Irish potato and the most floury potato variety available. Skin finish is rough and russet with pale lemon-cream coloured flesh. This variety is suitable for boiling,steaming or chipping but may be too dry for roasting. As with Pinks steaming may produce better results than boiling. Traditionally Golden Wonder is available from October/November through to June.
Home Guard - is the traditional first early potato grown in Ireland.Typically it available from mid May in small quantities with loose fluffy skins. Texture improves as the season progresses. Home Guards tend to be gone from the market by early July.
Queen - are a second early potato variety and are available from late June to September. Generally Queens begin to replace Home Guard in late June and become the mainstay of the Irish potato market for the summer.The variety has white skin and flesh,an excellent floury texture,beautiful taste and can be used for boiling,steaming,roasting and chipping
Cultra - has a white skin with pink eyes and a cream flesh.It is probably the most popular home grown white potato in the country.The potato is slightly waxier in texture with a good skin finish.The variety is suitable for baking,boiling steaming and roasting.
Orla - This is a new variety developed in Ireland. The variety is a second early with yellow flesh and skin,with a waxier texture than traditional varieties.The variety is particularly suited to organic production due to its very high levels of blight resistance and early maturity.
Sarpo Mira, Sarpo Axona, Blue Danube - Naturally blight resistant and currently grown by approximately 300 researchers around Ireland.
Record - is a cream coloured potato with an oval shape and a slightly rough yellow-brown ‘netted’ skin finish and yellow flesh. Records are dry and floury when cooked and are particularly popular in the Midlands and the West of Ireland for all round use. Peak availability is from September to Mid June.
Karlena - is a white alternative to Rooster and Kerr's pink.It has similar cooking characteristics and end uses.
All potatoes are high in essential vitamins such as potassium and Vitamin C, virtually fat free and available all year round. Potatoes are more nutritious, faster growing, need less land and water and can thrive in worse growing conditions than any other major crop. They provide up to four times as much complex carbohydrate per hectare as grain, better quality protein and several vitamins – a medium-size potato boiled in its skin has half an adult’s daily dose of vitamin C, for example.
Recipes using potatoes:
- Polish potatoe pancakes
- French gratin dauphinois
- Spiced spinach & potatoes
- Polish gnocchi
- Silesian dumplings
- Sweet dumplings with plums
- Traditional dumplings with offal
If you have any interesting potatoe recipes/facts please share them with us in the comment section below. And for now - enjoy the humble spud, cos there's more to it than meets the eye! :)
Source & photos: potatoe.ie