What is a potato?

In this short article, we will answer the question “What is a potato?”, and discuss its origin and the different ways it can be prepared.

What is a potato?

The potato is a tuber that belongs to the Solanaceae family, which has more than 2000 species, which is where the potato is from. 

Only roughly 20 different potato species are grown, though. Numerous species are found in the wild and are crucial to breeding operations. It belongs to the annual herbaceous family. Parts of subsurface stems have turned into tubers.

Potatoes come in a wide range of hues, skin types, and pulp types. The term “potato” is used to describe a large variety of tubers.

More than 5,000 different varieties of food are thought to be consumed globally. Potatoes come in a variety of sizes, colours, flavours, and textures with varying nutritional content to suit any palate. Here are the main categories:

  • English potato: It’s inside is yellowish and has a thick, pinkish skin. Its high starch content makes it the most popular variety for making frozen potato chips.
  • Sweet potatoes are popular with athletes because they are high in fibre and carbs. It possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in addition to vitamins C and A.
  • Yacon: It has a delicate texture and a sweet flavour. It is high in fibre, minerals, and carbs but low in calories. It is sliced thinly and served uncooked as an accoutrement to salads.
  • Cassava: It is typically eaten pureed or cooked in soups. Phosphorus, vitamins A, B, and C are all abundant in it. It helps with digestion and has anti-inflammatory qualities.

Where does the potato come from?

Because it was adapted to the region’s short days, the potato (Solanum tuberosum L.), which is endemic to South America and originated in the Andes Mountains, was eaten by native populations in ancient times over 8,000 years ago. 

Around 1570 saw the species’ arrival in Europe, which meant that the species was chosen for tuberization on lengthy days. It was brought from Europe to North America around 1620, where it flourished as a delicacy. It then spread to numerous other nations.

The potato’s ancestry is a subject of debate. However, there is compelling evidence that it is indigenous to two regions of South America, where wild biotypes still exist: 

  • One is the Andean highlands, which extend from Peru to northern Argentina, 
  • and the other is the southern Chilean lowlands.

For many years, the idea maintained that the “European” potato descended from several Andean wild species or the “complex” Solanum brevicaule, a collection of tuberiferous genotypes found from Central Peru to Northern Argentina. 

Recent research, however, found that all early cultivars descended from a single ancestor of the “Northern” component of the S. brevicaule complex from Peru, which had molecular markers in hundreds of wild species and cultivars. 

However, similar investigations using herbarized samples revealed that all modern potato cultivars were descended from Chilean “landraces” rather than Peruvian genotypes. 

Initially, it was believed that Andean genotypes predominated in the 1700s and 1800s before being wiped out by the late blight (Phytophthora infestans) outbreak in Europe in the middle of the 19th century. 

The Chilean potato first appeared in 1822 and started to prevail even before the aforementioned pandemic, according to the same molecular analyses, whereas the Andean potato predominated from the 1700s until 1892, many years after the late blight epidemic.

How is a potato eaten?

The benefits of the potato may be hampered by the preparation method. There are numerous methods for eating. See a few examples:

  • Roasted: To make it even healthier, prepare it with little oil and with the skin on. It is a way to go along with main foods like meats.
  • Fried: Despite being delicious, french fries should only be eaten occasionally since the high temperatures of the oils cause hazardous chemicals to be released into the body. The food’s calories are also increased by the oil.
  • Cooked: To preserve the nutrients, choose to cook the food with the skin on. It can be a puree or served with salads.
  • Steamed: The greatest technique to preserve nutrients and give potatoes a more natural flavour is to steam them.


In this short article, we answered the question “What is a potato?”, and discussed its origin and the different ways it can be prepared.



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