Purple potatoes are a type of potato popular in South America, with their origins in Peru and Bolivia. These potatoes have many uses and a striking purple color that can brighten up any dish. Besides adding color to your table, these potatoes can be beneficial to your health due to their abundance of antioxidants.
The Purple potato is native to the Lake Titicaca within the high plains and mountain slopes of Peru and Bolivia. They are among thousands of varieties that have been cultivated for nearly 8000 years in the Andean regions of Peru, Boliva, and Ecuador. The diversity of Purple potato varieties, their resistance to disease and ability to withstand harsh conditions has allowed them to evolve for thousands of years into a 21st century food crop. Purple potatoes are cultivated in potato growing regions of South America, North America and Europe.
Purple potatoes are a variety of potato with a purple-colored skin and flesh. There are several different types of purple potatoes such as Purple Majesty, Purple Viking, Purple Peruvian and Black Vitelotte which are an ancient heirloom Peruvian variety. When sold commercially, these potatoes are often around the size of a golf ball, though if left to reach full maturity they can grow to a larger oblong shape. Purple potatoes are available year-round and are typically dry and starchy with a slight earthy and nutty flavor.
Although less popular than their white counterparts, purple potatoes — increasingly available at supermarkets, specialty food stores and farmers’ markets — boast higher levels of polyphenol antioxidants that protect body cells against free radical damage that can increase disease risk.
Purple potatoes are very similar to the popular Russet potatoes in nutritional value. One-half cup of purple potatoes contains 70 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of protein and no fat. One-half cup of Russet potatoes contains 66 calories, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of protein and no fat. The one significant difference between purple potatoes and Russet potatoes is the antioxidant content; purple potatoes contain 4 times as much antioxidants as Russet potatoes. Anthocyanin is a pigment that creates the purple color in the potatoes and is also a powerful antioxidant which protects cells from damage and so may prevent cancer. Consumption of it is also thought to have many other beneficial effects.
The Purple potatoes nutritional value and energy-rich properties have become factors for the potatoes explosion in popularity in the late 20th century and early 21st century. Its ability to provide high quantities of vitamins, proteins, and antioxidants has become a valued measure of food security and sovereignty.
All potatoes are naturally high in potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure. But the extra antioxidants in purple potatoes make them even more effective than other potato varieties. A study conducted by the USDA among overweight participants suffering from hypertension reported that consuming six to eight golf ball-sized purple potatoes twice daily for one month reduced blood pressure by an average of 4 percent. These antioxidants also strengthen your immune system and can help prevent certain heart diseases and cancers.
Purple potatoes have a medium-starchy texture, making them versatile and suitable in most recipes that call for potatoes. Used in potato salads, they can literally transform a typically bland-looking dish. These potatoes will keep their shape when baked but also mash and blend well after boiling for use in mashed potatoes and soups. Purple potatoes have a delicate skin which contains many of the beneficial nutrients. This skin should be kept on when cooking to gain the maximum nutritional benefit.
Here are some recommendations for preparing and serving purple potatoes;
- Hash browns: Combine diced or sliced unpeeled potatoes with shallots and some chili pepper in a little olive oil. Cover first to steam, and then remove the lid, add garlic and scallions, and sauté until done. Finish with a handful of fresh herbs including parsley and rosemary.
- Mashed potatoes: Keep potato skins on to maximize nutrients and add home-style appeal. For creamy moistness, use almond milk. Also add roasted garlic for extra flavor (and potential heart-heath benefits).
- Baked or microwaved potatoes: Top with one pat of butter, a large dollop of plain Greek yogurt, and a generous amount of fresh chives or scallions. Or add zing with a dollop of tzatziki dip (a Greek dip made with yogurt, chopped cucumber, and mint).
- Potato salad: For 2 pounds potatoes, use 4 tablespoons mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons stone-ground or Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, and 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar. Serves 6.