The word "potato" may refer either to the plant itself or to the edible tuber. In the Andes, where the species is indigenous, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species. Potatoes were introduced outside the Andes region approximately four centuries ago, and have since become an integral part of much of the world's food supply.

The potato was first domesticated in the region of modern-day southern Peru and extreme northwestern Bolivia between 8000 and 5000 BCE. It has since spread around the world and become a staple crop in many countries.

Potatoes are seasonal and are usually harvested, depending on the variety and where in the country they are grown, from May to October. Potatoes are often categorised according to their season. For example: Varieties such as Rocket or Maris Bard are described as ‘earlies’ or ‘new potatoes’ as they are planted in the winter, ready for harvesting in the spring or early summer. Their skins are not firm and ‘set’ and are sometimes referred to as ‘fluffy’.