With 5,000 varieties worldwide from Adirondack Blue to Yukon Gold, and 45 billion pounds harvested annually in the U.S. alone, it seems only fitting that the spectacular spud should have its day. National Potato Day is August 19th!
Boiled, baked, twice-baked, mashed, hashed, scalloped, roasted, fried, “au gratin’d,” skin on, skin off, in soup, as salad, gnocchi, latkes, in kugel, blintzes, pierogi, and more, potatoes punctuate our vocabularies from a very young age. In fact who didn’t once covet the ubiquitous Mr. Potato Head (my sister had two)! Derived from the Spanish word patata, the tempting tuber piques our palates in or alongside everything from a fat, juicy burger to a cold vat of vichyssoise–not to mention as an oft invited salty, crunchy guest at flat screen sporting events nearly every night from Atlanta to Anchorage.
Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the United States have potato museums, with Lima, Peru’s International Potato Center, established in 1971, a globally-recognized root and tuber research and development center. Its offices in 30 developing nations facilitate sustainable solutions to hunger and diminishing natural resources. In Maine, exploration is underway to use waste potatoes to obtain polylactic acid for use in plastic products and to use its potato starch as a base for biodegradable packaging. Not a bad manifestation of the seemingly talented tuber. Looks as though that French fry sopping up a mess of ketchup at the drive-in has friends (and relatives) in very high places.
Research tells us potatoes contain vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals such as carotenoids (beta carotene is one) which can provide for a lower mortality rate from chronic illnesses. It is also reported that humans can survive well on a diet of potatoes–which contain vitamins, copper, manganese, niacin, and potassium– supplemented by butter or milk which contain enough of Vitamins A and D. But you may want to add something more to your day!
In folklore and natural remedies, potato skins are said to draw out infection and lessen inflammation when affixed to an injury. Added to honey, they have been used to treat burns in India. The potato’s alkaline juice neutralizes stomach acid, relieving an upset stomach, heartburn, and even peptic ulcers.
But overall, for many of us a day without the versatile, tasty tuber might just be one to skip (well, almost)! Try these recipes on your family for National Potato Day, August 19th:
“Hot” Potato Salad
1 lb. yellow fingerling potatoes or small red skins
1 medium sized red pepper diced to ¼ inch
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and deveined, minced (be sure to wash hands after handling)
1 bunch of scallions cut in ¼ inch slices, including a good portion of the green
2 hard-boiled eggs minced
1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded, quartered and cut into ½ inch slices
1-2 Tbsp. spicy whole grain mustard
1 cup mayonnaise or enough to make salad moist, but not overly creamy
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Parsley, chopped, or basil, chopped
Dash of hot sauce (more to taste if you can tolerate it!)
Wash potatoes well, leaving skin on. Cut in half and place in boiling, lightly salted water. Boil until just tender, 10-15 minutes, depending on size of potatoes. Drain and pour cold water over potatoes to stop cooking. Drain well.
Cut halves into bite-size cubes: ½-¾ inch. Gently toss potatoes with next five ingredients. Add mustard and mayonnaise and mix well, making sure not to add too much mayonnaise to ensure not having salad too creamy. Season with sea salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped parsley and/or chopped basil. Add Tabasco to taste if desired. Refrigerate 2-3 hours until well chilled.