POTATOES! A weed, a fruit, a vegetable, a blob, a starch-ball, what?
A potato is a VEGETABLE. It's a vegetable that grows under the ground, an offspring of the
above-ground potato plant. Potato plants are planted in the spring using the 'eye' of another
potato. The 'eyes' are the little pits or whorls you see in the skin; when you leave a potato for awhile,
you'll see little shoots start to grow from those eyes. A potato can be cut up into chunks, and as long as a chunk
has one of those eyes/shoots, it should take root in proper growing conditions.
As the plant grows above ground over the summer, the stem grows roots, but it also
splits itself and modifies into large and bulbous things called 'tubers'. The potato is a tuber, an offshoot of the
underground stem of the plant. It's not, scientifically, a 'root tuber', but who cares. Stem tuber, root tuber, as
long as it grows into a potato, I say. Potatoes are harvested in the late summer and fall by digging around the
plant, pulling it up, whatever method you need to grub up those tubers from the dirt. I have fun memories as a kid
digging potatoes in the family garden... you keep digging and digging, and just when you thought you'd found all
the potatoes... you find another one! Then another one! They keep spreading out and growing deeper, you're always
surprised by how many more hidden potatoes you spade up.
To me, the potato is a kind of 'carrier' food. You don't really want
to eat it plain, it has a neutral taste, a very versatile, subtle unique taste that is so weak, neutral, that
it is bland by itself... the magic is in how well it mixes in other recipes, and how sauces and toppings add to the
potato. It's a 'filler' food that takes up space, creates a nice background for other tastes to mix with. It is
neutral enough to be mixed with foods that have strong tastes, yet it has enough of its own taste that it
can still be enjoyed as a feature dish, with the lightest hint of other herbs and spices to accent
Potatoes have nutritional benefits we all know about, but I won't dwell on that here.
Aside from my culinary appreciation for them, I eat them for POWER: they're high in carbohydrates, so give you
a good energy boost. You'll see athletes eating potatoes upon potatoes.
It is a humble food, it doesn't look or taste particularly exciting, yet has an
incredible chameleon ability to be blended with almost any other food. It can be called
one of the most perfect staple ingredients, just bland enough and just tasty enough to adapt to culinary styles in
cuisines all over the world.