Potatoes are part of the Solanaceae family of nightshade vegetables, and they are formally called Solanum tuberosum. People use potatoes for food and animal feed and in the production of alcoholic beverages and starch.
Potatoes are made up primarily of water and contain vitamin C, niacin and thiamine. Potatoes thrive in cool climates with well-drained soil and are harvested in late summer or early fall. People grow about 100 different types of potatoes in the United States, including russet, red Norland, Yukon Gold and Atlantic varieties. South American Indians first cultivated potatoes about 10,000 years ago, and the Spanish brought the vegetable to Europe in the 1500s.