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Potatoes have a high carbohydrate content and include protein, minerals (particularly potassium, calcium), and vitamins, including vitamin C. Freshly harvested potatoes retain more vitamin C than stored potatoes.
---Constituents---The tuber is composed mainly of starch, which affords animal heat and promotes fatness, but the proportion of muscle-forming food is very small - it is said that 10 1/2 lb. of the tubers are only equal in value to 1 lb. of meat. The raw juice of the Potato contains no alkaloid, the chief ingredient being potash salts, which are present in large quantity. The tuber also contains a certain amount of citric acid - which, like Potash, is antiscorbutic - and phosphoric acid, yielding phosphorus in a quantity less only than that afforded by the apple and by wheat.
It is of paramount importance that the valuable potash salts should be retained by the Potato during cooking. If peeled and then boiled, the tubers lose as much as 33 per cent of potash and 23 per cent of phosphoric acid, and should, therefore, invariably be boiled or steamed with their coats on. Too much stress cannot be laid on this point. Peeled potatoes have lost half their food-value in the water in which they have been boiled.
The Potato is not only important as a valuable article of diet, but has many other uses, both medicinal and economic.
To carry a raw potato in the pocket was an old-fashioned remedy against rheumatism that modern research has proved to have a scientific basis. Ladies in former times had special bags or pockets made in their dresses in which to carry one or more small raw potatoes for the purpose of avoiding rheumatism if predisposed thereto. Successful experiments in the treatment of rheumatism and gout have in the last few years been made with preparations of raw potato juice. In cases of gout, rheumatism and lumbago the acute pain is much relieved by fomentations of the prepared juice followed by an application of liniment and ointment. Sprains and bruises have also been successfully treated by the Potato-juice preparations, and in cases of synovitis rapid absorption of the fluid has resulted. Although it is not claimed that the treatment in acute gout will cure the constitutional symptoms, local treatment by its means relieves the pain more quickly than other treatment.
Potato starch is much used for determining the diastatic value of malt extract.
Hot potato water has in years past been a popular remedy for some forms of rheumatism, fomentations to swollen and painful parts, as hot as can be borne, being applied from water in which 1 lb. of unpeeled potatoes, divided into quarters, has been boiled in 2 pints slowly boiled down to 1 pint Another potato remedy for rheumatism was made by cutting up the tubers, infusing them together with the fresh stalks and unripe berries for some hours in cold water, and applying in the form of a cold compress. The potatoes should not be peeled.
Uncooked potatoes, peeled and pounded in a mortar, and applied cold, have been found to make a very soothing plaster to parts that have been scalded or burnt.
The mealy flour of baked potato, mixed with sweet oil, is a very healing application for frost-bites. In Derbyshire, hot boiled potatoes are used for corns.
Boiled with weak sulphuric acid, potato starch is changed into glucose, or grape sugar, which by fermentation yields alcohol this spirit being often sold under the name of British Brandy.
A volatile oil - chemically termed Amylic alcohol, in Germany known as Fuselöl - is distilled by fermentation from potato spirit.
Although young potatoes contain no citric acid, the mature tubers yield enough even for commercial purposes, and ripe potato juice is an excellent cleaner of silks, cottons and woollens.
A fine flour is prepared from the Potato, and more used on the Continent than in this country for cake-making.
Cooks and chefs can prepare potatoes for eating in numerous ways: either with their skin on or peeled, whole or cut into pieces, and with seasonings or without. The only requirement involves cooking — to break down the starch and make them edible. Most end-consumers eat potatoes hot, but several basic potato recipes involve cooking the potatoes and then eating them cold — potato salad and potato crisps (called "potato chips" in some places, such as the U.S.). One of the most common presentation methods involves mashing potatoes: peeling, boiling, then mashing and mixing with butter, cream, or other seasonings before serving. Mashed potatoes form a major component of several traditional dishes from the British Isles such as shepherd's pie, bubble and squeak, and the 'tatties' which accompany haggis.
In the United States potatoes have become one of the most widely-consumed crops, and thus have a variety of preparation methods and condiments. One popular favorite involves a baked potato with cheddar cheese (or sour cream and chives) on top, and in New England "smashed potatoes" (a chunkier variation on mashed potatoes but retaining the peel of a russet potato) have great popularity.
Other presentations or dishes may see potatoes baked whole; boiled; steamed; cut into cubes and roasted; diced or sliced and fried (home fries); grated into small thin strips and fried (hash browns); grated and formed into dumplings, Rösti or potato pancakes; and cut into long, thin pieces and fried or baked (chips, traditionally called "French fries" in the U.S.). Potatoes also serve to make a type of pasta called gnocchi. Potatoes form one of the main ingredients in many soups such as the pseudo-French vichyssoise and Albanian potato and cabbage soup. Potato chunks also commonly appear as a stew ingredient.