Perhaps Dugléré did not choose a potato dish to name after Anna by chance, but because he knew the potato is a member of the nightshade family. This family also includes the deadly belladonna plant, so-called because 16th century Italian bella donnas (‘good-looking women’) used atropine, found in the belladonna plant, to dilate the pupils of their eyes so as to appear more seductive.
In fact, when potatoes were first introduced to Europe from the New World in the 16th century, people were highly wary of them, suspecting them to be poisonous. They were actually right – the leaves and stems of the plant are, being full of solanine. The tubers, of course, are not.
However, beware the potato that has turned green, been stored in a very cold place, gone wrinkly and spongy, or started to sprout. These are all signs that solanine has developed in it to high levels. The potato probably won’t kill you, but might taste bitter and give you a slight tummy ache.
Adding a potato to an overly salty soup, sauce or stew in order to absorb some of the salt is nothing more than an old wives’ tale. The potato just absorbs some of the liquid, and the salt carried in it, hence not affecting the percentage of salt in the remaining liquid one iota.