Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum L) constitute a very old food, used by people in America, before Christopher Columbus discovered it . It seems that old Incas already consumed it habitually .
From America it was carried to Europe, although it took quite a long period to be adopted as a food , since the plant was toxic and it was thought that the consumption of the potatoes could cause illnesses equally . It didn't generalize until the XVII century, because the shortage of foods that reigned during this time forced to make use of it .
Potato plant is toxic
Indeed the potato plant is toxic. It contains an alkaloid named solanine ( C45H73NO15) that appears in all the external parts of the plant (leaves, stems , flowers and fruits) and also in the tender buds of the tubers when they germinate.
Photo of potatoes (tubers) fresh from the earth. Potatoes are actually thickened underground stems with reserve substances.
See the roots hanging from the tubers that are different from these.
The ingestion of the plant produces gastrointestinal, hepatic and heart damages that can be , in case that the ingestion is high, deathly. ( More information in" Toxicity of potato" )
MEDICINAL PROPERTIES OF POTATOES
Potato, a soothing food for skin problems
It is one the vegetables that contains more starch, a product with emollient properties, soothing the skin. This property makes the potato or its juice can be used in external use to combat the stomach problems, since it has antacid properties.( Just peel several potatoes and mash them. Filter the juice with a cloth and take half cup twice a day) The same preparation is considered appropriate to combat the hepatic problems.
Equally, in external use, the same liquid can be applied as an ointment on the areas of the aching body to combat pain, to reduce the inflammations or to heal the wounds, being interesting in cases of blows, black eyes, twists, bladders, burns, included sunburns, frostbites, scars, etc. Also apply the slices of peeled potato on the part of the affected body. A poultice made with raw grated potato can be used for treating hematomas.
A detail of the potato plant, with the flowers the fruit
and the leaves. The fruit, contrary to the tubers,
is toxic, the same as the flowers and the leaves.
The plant that presents a bigger content in starch is the exotic durian (Durio zibethinus L), a tree of the bombaceae family that is cultivated in Indonesia and Malaysia with a very distinctive fruit considering its size that can achieve 25 cm and whose roasted seeds are eaten as if they were chestnuts. Other plants with a great richness are tapioca (Manihot esculenta), rice (Oryza sativa L) or mango (Mangifera L. indica) or chestnut (Castanea sativa)
Given the possible toxicity of the raw potato, the homemade elaboration of medicinal products with raw potatois dissuaded , especially those of internal use.
Apart from these considerations that always compels us to use this food cooked, we should think that tubers of potato plant , the potatoes, constitute a very appropriate food that should habitually be present in our meals . Let's see what are the main edible properties of potatoes
Potatoes are the second most used food in the world.
Potatoes contain a lot of potassium
They are very rich in potassium, component that is very good to combat high blood pressure for its vasodilator and diuretic properties . Equally it has been proved to be a good help in the treatment of the depression and especially very interesting to those people who present rheumatic problems, gout, acidosis, cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder ), prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) or lithiasis (formation of calculus).
Eating potatoes favors a gentle dream and they help to calm the spasms and cramps, exercising a sedative function of the organism. Equally it is very useful to alleviate cough, when this has a nervous origin.
Potatoes with a lot of vitamin C, calcium, vitamin A and, specially, carbohydrates
Potatoes are rich in vitamin C with antiscorbutic and detoxifying properties, although, since this vitamin is located under the skin, many of it gets lost after cooking.
But, they are specially rich in carbohydrates that are, together with sugar , the energy source for the correct working of our body.
How to eat potatoes
For a correct assimilation of all these properties, the should be eaten boiled, or steamed cooked . Always using a slow cooking that avoids the destruction of the vitamin C to the minimum. It is very appropriate to drink the liquid resulting from boiling potatoes because most of the minerals are found in it.
Many of the alimentary properties of this food are in the skin. Whenever possible they should be cooked without peeling them , keeping in mind that this should only be done in case of potatoes recently harvested , also called new potatoes.
A good form of preparing them is baking them during 20 minutes with the skin, after having cleaned them appropriately or cook them roasted in the oven, with some drops of oil.. Other recommended combinations are the following ones:
In spite of its advantages, one has to keep in mind that eating poptatoes makes us eliminate a lot of water so that people with hypotension problems or renal affections should use cautiously . Equally, considering it has a big amount of carbohydrates, people with problems of obesity and diabetics should not abuse of its consumption.
It is not appropriate to combine potatoes with other starchy foods as legumes, cereals, bread or pastas, to avoid ingesting too many calories. The best combination is potatoes with other vegetables.
How to preserve potatoes
To maintain their alimentary properties in good state they should be stored under certain conditions. The main conditions to keep in mind when storing potatoes are the following :
- Not to pile them too much to avoid them to germinate. The heaps should never overcome a height of 50 cm.
- Maintain them fresh.
- Provide them a good ventilation ,
- Avoid to store them in a totally dark place, a fact which would make them germinate, neither they should be placed in full light. The best thing is to provide them a certain degree of dimness.
- Those that are in not well state should be removed to avoid them to ruin the rest.