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The potato /pəˈteɪtoʊ/ is a starchy root vegetable native to the Americas that is consumed as a staple food in many parts of the world. Potatoes are tubers of the plant Solanum tuberosum, a perennial in the nightshade family Solanaceae.

Wild potato species can be found from the southern United States to southern Chile.The potato was originally believed to have been domesticated by Native Americans independently in multiple locations, but later genetic studies traced a single origin, in the area of present-day southern Peru and extreme northwestern Bolivia. Potatoes were domesticated there about 7,000–10,000 years ago from a species in the S. brevicaule complex. Many varieties of the potato are cultivated in the Andes region of South America, where the species is indigenous.

The Spanish introduced potatoes to Europe in the second half of the 16th century. They are a staple food in many parts of the world and an integral part of much of the world's food supply. Following millennia of selective breeding, there are now over 5,000 different varieties of potatoes.Over 99% of potatoes presently cultivated worldwide descend from varieties that originated in the lowlands of south-central Chile. The importance of the potato as a food source and culinary ingredient varies by region and is still changing. It remains an essential crop in Europe, especially Northern and Eastern Europe, where per capita production is still the highest in the world, while the most rapid expansion in production during the 21st century was in southern and eastern Asia, with China and India leading the world production of 376 million tonnes (370,000,000 long tons; 414,000,000 short tons) as of 2021.

There are thousands of varieties of potatoes, but they generally fall into three categories: new or waxy, mature or starchy, and all-purpose. Matching the potato characteristics to the best cooking method will yield the most consistent results in the kitchen. 

New Potatoes are any variety of potatoes harvested in the spring or summer with high moisture and low starch content. They are sometimes called waxy potatoes and are best when steamed, roasted, or grilled.

Mature Potatoes are Russet Potatoes harvested in the fall with low moisture and high starch content. Because of this high starch content, the potato granules swell and break into dry granules that are easy to mash and puree. They are suitable for baking, pureeing, and frying.

All-Purpose Potatoes, including large red, white, and yellow varieties, have moderate moisture and starch content and are suitable for diverse preparations. All-purpose potatoes hold their shape after cooking and are used in salads, soups, and casseroles. They are also ideal for boiling, steaming, frying, and roasting.

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