The botanical name of ‘Potato’ is Solanum Tuberosum. Potato has been used in Peru for thousands of years, but in Europe only for the last two hundred and fifty years. It formed an important part of the diet of the Incas. The potato grows in a wild state on the Peruvian Coast, Chile, and Buenos Aires. It was shipped to Spain in1530. The colonists sent by Sir Walter Scott Raleigh brought it from Virginia to England in1586.
Potato cultivation did not catch up in Europe as it belongs to deadly nightshade family and contains toxic alkaloids. The Puritans are also said to have opposed it’s cultivation as it is not mentioned in the Bible.
The Spanish invaders first saw this root in Columbia where they called it ‘papa’ and ‘papas’ for plural.Castellanos mentions that it was first seen in 1537, and speaks of it as ‘truffles’. Cieza later on describes of its use in Popayan in Equador.He compared them to truffles but referred to it as papas. ‘Papa ‘n is of Quechan origin, meaning tuber.
There are many varieties of potatoes the basic difference being –new, yellow flesh, and white flesh. The yellow flesh potato is more in common in Europe and South America.
Potatoes are highly nutritious. It is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin B, iron, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorous, and folate. It contains complex carbohydrates which take longer to digest. This gives a feeling of great satiety.
Due to the rich contents it acts –
-as a antispasmodic
Therapeutically the potato is :
- Used for ulcers both stomach and duodenal
- Liver problems
- Gall stones
- Aches and pains
- Skin inflammations ,burns, scalds, chilblains, and chapped skin
- Used as a vitamin booster and therefore a must on a weaning baby’s diet
- A blood pressure lowering agent due to the kukoamines it contains.
- A provider of fat free arteries as the flavanoids in it lowers LDL cholesterol
- Good for preventing colon cancer due to it bulk content.
- A good stress reliever as the vitamin B (B-complex) in it provides a healthy nervous system and balances moods.
Potatoes are best when baked or boiled in their jackets (with the peel). This prevents the nutrients from leaching into the water.
So it is seen that contrary to a ‘couch potato’, the silent potato besides being a very tasty fare in the culinary world it is very nutritious too!