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Archive for June 30, 2013

FOOD FUN: Heirloom Potatoes

Exotic looking, but they’re just potatoes!
Photo courtesy Costanera Cocina Peruana.


Potatoes originated in the Andes Mountains of Peru, where more than 2,000 varieties still grow wild (there are more than 4,000 varieties of potatoes worldwide). They were first domesticated more than 6,000 years ago.

Don’t you wish you could buy some of these beauties, instead of the plain potatoes grown for the mass market?

If you look closely, you’ll see versions that look similar to what we can buy today. What we can buy is based on which varieties:

  • Produce the highest yields
  • Are the hardiest
  • Appeal most to consumers (much as we’d love them, many people don’t want to buy those curled or knobby potatoes)

    Wild potatoes are indigenous to the Andes Mountains in Peru, and were cultivated by the Incas.

    The name is said to originate from the Spanish patata, a combination of batata, the sweet potato, and papa, a word for potato from the Inca language, Quechua.

    The Spanish conquered Peru around 1530 and brought potatoes back to Spain. News traveled fast (or what passed as “fast” in the centuries prior to the telegraph), and potatoes reached the rest of Western Europe relatively quickly.

    However, not everyone was enamored of the potato (or the tomato). They were feared at first, accused of causing leprosy and being poisonous. They were classified as a relative of deadly nightshade, because both contain toxic compounds known as glycoalkaloids, though the levels in domestic potatoes and tomatoes fall far short of being harmful to people.

    Slowly, more countries realized the power of the potato. It could grow in any climate. It thrived in Ireland, so much so that when hit by a potato blight, Phytophthora infestans, three years in a row, more than a million people died of starvation and disease.

    Potatoes were introduced to America in the 18th century. They were first planted in Idaho in 1836; the state now grows 25% of the nation’s potatoes.

    Idahoan Luther Burbank developed the Russet Burbank potato in 1872, a more disease-resistant version of the Irish russet potato (there have been additional russet developments since).

    And the rest is history—even if modern history is not as colorful as the original created by nature.


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Tequila On The Rocks

    Sure, you enjoy tequila in a Margarita, Tequila Sunrise or hundreds of other drinks that use the popular Mexican spirit.

    But have you tried tequila on the rocks? That’s how the aged tequila expressions, Añejo and Extra Añejo, should be enjoyed (here are the different types of tequila).

    Even if all you have is a bottle of Blanco/Silver tequila, you can pour it over rocks. Here‘s a refreshing tip for summer sipping from the folks at Milagro Tequila:

    Serve Silver tequila on the rocks with a sprig of spanked mint.

    Least you think that “spanked” mint is something kinky: Just crush the mint lightly in your hand to release some of the essential oil inside. It’s a tip to use with all fresh herbs, whether you’re adding rosemary to a marinade or basil to a sauce.


    Tequila on the rocks: no mixing required. Photo courtesy Milagro Tequila.


    Spanking is different from muddling, where the ingredients—fruits, herbs, and/or spices—are mashed in the bottom of a mixing glass to release their flavor.

    A long, stick-like gadget (the muddler), similar to a mortar-and-pestle effect, is used for crushing.


    Red, white and blue tequila shots. Photo
    courtesy Navan Liqueur.



    You can exchange the mint for fruit and turn tequila on the rocks to red, white and blue tequila shooters.

    Just add a spoonful of purée or fruit juice to the shot glass:

  • Red purée: raspberry or strawberry
  • White purée: lychee or white peach
  • Blue purée: blackberry or blueberry

    While explorers of the New World brought much exciting food back to Europe (cacao/chocolate, potatoes, tomatoes and turkey, for starters), they contributed two pretty essential foods to the New World: distilled spirits (they taught the Aztecs how to turned the original fermented mezcal into tequila) and honey.

    Check out the history of Tequila.



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