/peuh tay"toh, -teuh/, n., pl. potatoes.
1. Also called Irish potato, white potato. the edible tuber of a cultivated plant, Solanum tuberosum, of the nightshade family.
2. the plant itself.
3. See sweet potato (defs. 1, 2).
[1545-55; < Sp patata white potato, var. of batata sweet potato < Taino]

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Herbaceous annual (Solanum tuberosum) in the nightshade family.

One of the world's main food crops, the potato differs from other food crops in that the edible portion is a tuber. Highly digestible, potatoes are prepared for eating in many ways and are a major source of starch as well as amino acids, protein, vitamin C, and B vitamins. The stem grows 20–40 in. (50–100 cm) tall, sprouting spirally arranged compound leaves. Underground, stems extend as stolons, the ends of which enlarge into 1–20 tubers of variable shape and size. The tubers have spirally arranged buds (eyes) that may remain dormant after the tuber is fully grown for up to 10 weeks or more; they grow into plants identical to the parent plant. A native of the Andes, the potato (also known as the common potato, white potato, or Irish potato) was carried by Spaniards into Europe during the 16th century. A century later, it had become the major food crop in Ireland; disastrous damage to the crop by a fungal blight caused the Irish potato famine in the mid-1800s. See also sweet potato.

Potato (Solanum tuberosum).

Grant Heilman
(as used in expressions)
potato bug

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      (Solanum tuberosum), one of some 150 tuber-bearing species of the genus Solanum (family Solanaceae). The potato (common potato, white potato, or Irish potato), considered by most botanists a native of the Peruvian-Bolivian Andes, is one of the world's main food crops, differing from others in that the edible part of the plant is a tuber (i.e., the swollen end of an underground stem).

      The potato plant is an herbaceous annual, 50–100 cm (20–40 inches) high. Leaf arrangement is spiral; leaves are compound and 20–30 cm long, consisting of a terminal leaflet and two to four pairs of leaflets, each 6–10 cm long.

      Underground the stems extend into structures called stolons. The ends of the stolons may enlarge greatly to form a few to more than 20 tubers, of variable shape and size, usually ranging in weight up to 300 g (10 ounces) but occasionally to more than 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds). The skin varies in colour from brownish white to deep purple; the flesh normally ranges in colour from white to yellow, but it, too, may be purple. The tubers bear spirally arranged buds (eyes) in the axils of aborted leaves, of which scars remain. These buds may remain dormant after the tuber is fully grown, even under conditions favourable to development, for up to 10 weeks or more. They grow into plants identical to the plant that bore the tubers. Vegetative propagation of desired characteristics is thus possible, and this method is always used commercially because of the great variation that results when plants are grown from true seed.

 The potatoes cultivated in South America as early as 1,800 years ago probably consisted of a mixture of varieties; in the same area today, as many as 60 varieties may be distinguished in a single village market. Encountered by the invading Spaniards, potatoes were introduced into Europe during the second half of the 16th century. By the end of the 17th century the newcomer was a major crop in Ireland, and by the end of the 18th it was a major crop in continental Europe, particularly Germany, and in the west of England. The Irish economy itself became dependent upon the potato. It continued to spread, in both Western and Eastern hemispheres, during the first four decades of the 19th century, but the disastrous failures of the Irish (Irish Potato Famine) crops in the mid-19th century (especially in 1846 and 1848), because of late blight (Phytophthora infestans), and the ensuing famine led to a more cautious attitude toward dependence on it.

      Potatoes are frequently served whole or mashed as a cooked vegetable and are also ground into potato flour, used in baking and as a thickener for sauces. Potatoes are highly digestible. They also supply vitamin C, amino acids, protein, thiamin, and nicotinic acid.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Potato — Po*ta to, n.; pl. {Potatoes}. [Sp. patata potato, batata sweet potato, from the native American name (probably batata) in Hayti.] (Bot.) (a) A plant ({Solanum tuberosum}) of the Nightshade family, and its esculent farinaceous tuber, of which… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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  • potato — po•ta•to [[t]pəˈteɪ toʊ, tə[/t]] n. pl. toes 1) pln Also called Irish potato,white potato the edible tuber of a cultivated plant, Solanum tuberosum of the nightshade family. 2) pln the plant itself 3) pln sweet potato 1), sweet potato 2) •… …   From formal English to slang

  • potato — I. /pəˈteɪtoʊ / (say puh taytoh) noun (plural potatoes) 1. the edible tuber (white potato or Irish potato) of a cultivated plant, Solanum tuberosum. 2. the plant itself. {Spanish patata white potato, variant of batata sweet potato, from Haitian}… …  

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