Here are 6 Secrets You May Not Know about Potatoes and St Patrick's Day
Friends, when March rolls around, we see a proliferation of green-colored recipes coming through our inboxes and news feeds and a virtual meadow of green clothes and craft supplies in the stores. We all know why: St. Patrick’s Day is a colorful holiday here in the US.
A Bit of Background
It’s not a requirement to actually be Irish to celebrate this day, and many people get on the green-wearing-green-eating bandwagon for the day.
St. Patrick’s Day commemorates Saint Patrick, who is the foremost patron saint of Ireland and also the arrival of Christianity in Ireland as well as Irish culture in general.
We have all heard that Corned Beef and Cabbage is the quintessential Irish meal to have on St. Pat’s Day. According to National Geographic, Ireland has a long history of producing and exporting corned beef, but historically, most Irish never got a chance to eat it.
In ancient Ireland, cattle were valuable property, the contemporary equivalent of money in the bank. They were kept for milk and labor, and were only slaughtered, reluctantly, when they were well past their prime. The majority of the population lived on milk, grains, and bacon. Only the richest of the rich ate beef.
However, the potato, which was introduced to the country in the mid-1500s by Sir Walter Raleigh, is incorporated into many traditional Irish recipes. Potatoes are eaten by many in Ireland and the world over, and are the fourth largest food crop in the world. Potatoes were first cultivated by the Inca people in Peru.
One Potato, Two Potatoes
By the early 1800’s most of Ireland’s population depended on potatoes for the bulk of their diet and the population grew as people grew stronger, fortified by the healthy potatoes. Then, by the mid-1800’s there was a terrible disease that affected the potato crops and a lot of people starved because they lost the mainstay of their food supply. This is known as the Great Potato Famine and tragically, over 1 million people lost their lives.
How to Treat Your Potatoes
On a happier note, we are lucky enough to have potatoes in plenty and they are a great choice for frugal and delicious meals.
Here are 6 important tips you should know to store and manage your potatoes.
- Separate potatoes and onions. I was guilty of this for a long time. You’ll want to keep your potatoes away from onions because the gases from the onions will cause your potatoes to sprout, which reduces their firmness and nutrition.
- Store them in a dark, cool place. Keeping your potatoes in your cellar would be very appropriate, and you’ll definitely not want to keep them in the refrigerator because cold temperatures cause a potato’s starch to convert to sugar, resulting in a sweet taste and discoloration when cooked.
- Out with sprouts. If your potatoes start sprouting (eyes), you can still eat the potatoes if they’re not soft. Also, you MUST cut out the eyes before eating the potatoes because the sprouts are considered toxic.
- Bag It. If you want to extend the life of your potatoes, you can keep them in a perforated plastic bag or a paper bag.
- Don’t wash them before storing. This is good advice for any produce because when you wash produce and then keep them around, the dampness will make the produce spoil more quickly.
- Soak them. If you want to get a head start on your potato prep work, you can peel and cut your potatoes and soak them in cold water and add a drop or two of lemon juice. They will keep like this for a day or so, and I do this when I’m prepping for Thanksgiving!
What’s Cooking in Class This Week
To celebrate Paddy’s Day, this week we will be cooking some potato leek soup and some Irish soda bread scones. The soup is always a hit and it’s such a delightfully simple recipe.
We made the Irish soda bread scones last year for the first time and the kids went wild for them! As with all Irish soda bread, you’ll want to eat yours the first day as it gets dry and hard as the days go on. And by all means have lots of Irish butter with it!
Enjoy the green week, friends!!