Potatoes remain a popular vegetable

Despite a trend to so-called lighter foods, the popularity of potatoes in the United States far outpaces almost all other vegetables. The average American eats more than a hundred pounds of potatoes a year. Less than half are fresh, a change from 20 years ago, when most of the potatoes we ate were fresh.

But 75 percent of the population reports eating potatoes at least once in three days.

Since potatoes are still such a basic food for most people, careful shopping for the tuber can aid the food budget and help retain the quality of home-cooked meals.

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Here are some pointers:

It is usually more practical to buy potatoes in a prepacked bag for all- purpose and baking. But the price difference changes when the customer selects them from a bin or when uniformly sized potatoes are packaged and sold in small quantities.

The Idaho, a Russet Burbank potato, has two advantages, which is why it is usually listed at the highest price. It is fluffier and drier than others when cooked. It mashes well and absorbs more butter or other dressings than other, more moist potatoes.

Eastern growers also grow Russet-type potatoes, and Russet Burbanks are also grown in Maine.

Other varieties of Eastern potatoes have the same baking qualities as the Maine and Idaho potatoes.

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