Monday, November 7, 2011

Potatoes On My Mind

Y'all know what I'm going to miss most of all from my non-garden this past season? Potatoes. There's just nuthin' like the flavor of homegrown potatoes.

It's hard to tell where or when the "bad press" on the potato started, but It's unfortunate. Think of losing a few pounds, and you immediately think of cutting potatoes out of your diet. Most likely, however, any unwanted calories are contained in the gravy or sour cream added to the potatoes. (Or the Snickers candy bar you snarfed right before dinner . . . because the devil made you do it.)

It's true, potatoes are about 20% carbohydrates but they also offer vitamins and minerals galore. They're extremely rich in potassium which stimulates the kidneys to dispose of body waste (always a good thing), works with sodium to normalize the heartbeat (let's all remain calm), and joins with phosphorus to send oxygen to the brain (who can't use more of that?).

Potatoes are about 2% protein and are believed to be capable of sustaining life, even if no other food is available. My grandmother remembered her childhood in Scotland when her family did indeed exist for long periods of time on potatoes alone. (Next time anyone complains about leftovers, remind them of my Grandma Maggie.)

Because of a higher-than-necessary intake of protein, the typical American diet produces an acid reaction in the body. Potatoes are one of the most alkaline foods and help to balance the acid-producing foods we may be ingesting.

As with so many fruits and vegetables, a large amount of the nutritive value is found just under the skin of the potato, and for this reason it's wise to leave the skin on in preparation. But beware because unfortunately most commercially grown and marketed potatoes will have been sprayed to inhibit insect damage, some are even waxed to increase storage life, and yes, red potatoes are sometimes "enhanced" with dyes. I wouldn't advise leaving the skin on a potato that I hadn't grown myself or known the grower and his farming/gardening practices.

Boiling potatoes in the "jacket" preserves the greatest amount of vitamins and minerals. Baking whole potatoes is also a nutritious way of preparation.

The Vitamin C content of potatoes is high but does diminish in storage. And sad to say but true, the traditional way of serving mashed potatoes by paring, boiling, then mashing results in a Vitamin C loss of about 57%.

If you raise your own spuds or buy them in quantity, they are best stored at approximately 40-50 degrees in a dry, dark, well-ventilated cellar. If stored at warmer temps or in damp, humid conditions they tend to sprout, losing their keeping quality and nutritional value.

I'm still searching for a local source of organically grown potatoes to tide us over the winter but not having much luck because apparently it wasn't a good year for growing spuds in our area. Lack of an abundant potato crop is another indication of a nation-wide poor gardening and farming year just past. Usually we have no trouble growing potatoes (or any root crop) in our northeastern corner of Minnesota.

Next year I'll probably go overboard and plant way more than we need in our garden so that a year from now I'll again have potatoes on my mind, but it will be because I've got an ample supply squirreled away, and I'll be thinking of all the ways I can use and enjoy them through the winter months.


dr momi said...

I BET you miss your potatoes! Nothing like a homegrown potato.

Carolyn Renee said...

We tried to grow potatoes for the first time this year in an old tractor tires. We only planted a handful and got less than what we planted. Guess we were "lucky" that we didn't plant much then I guess. Going to try again next year. How do you plant your spuds?

Sparkless said...

Or maybe it's the grease that so many love to deep fry their potatoes in that give them a bad name? I love a good potato just roasted with a touch of butter and some salt and pepper.
We can't plant potatoes because our soil is contaminated.

Jane said...

Amen!! I always hate to hear people put down the wonderful, healthy potato. And being of Russian heritage, it is imperative for me to eat lots of potatoes. I hope you can find a local organic grower to get your fix to get you through the winter.

The Apple Pie Gal said...

Our sweet potatoes didn't even do well this year :(

We too planted more it seems than what we actually got out.

Thoughts on nutrition and canning them?

Good luck finding your spuds for the winter. Life without the great potato is just not good!

Mama Pea said...

dr momi - Yup, you can do so MUCH with them! As a veggie, in a soup, in a casserole, to keep your toes warm in bed, etc. ;o]

Carolyn Renee - I plant mine in rows three feet apart. I "dig" a little trench about 6" deep with a hoe, put eyes 12" apart and cover with dirt. When the plants are about 6-8" tall, I hill them up with more dirt and hill again about two more times after that.

Sparkless - That is so sad that your soil is in the condition it is.

Jane - Aha, so it's potatoes that give you all your energy!

APG - I've never canned potatoes 'cause they're so easy for us to keep "fresh." I knew a friend who canned some but she peeled them so I would think that would cause them to lose a lot of their nutritional value.

Leigh said...

Hurray for potatoes! I love potatoes. Of course I grew up in the midwest where it was meat and potatoes every night. Then I moved to Louisiana, where potatoes aren't a menu mainstay. I learned to like rice. And corn bread. But I till have a heart for potatoes. I only wish mine had done better this year.

mtnchild said...

I love potatoes too. When I bake mine, I put salsa and a bit of shredded cheese on them ... yum, yum, yum!!!!

I use to eat a lot of them raw when I was younger, I'll still have one or two bites when I'm cooking, but not 1-2 whole potatoes ... LOL

Sue said...

Personally, I can't wait to see your garden next year--I imagine it will be a bit "over-the-top" after a non-gardening(haha) year.
And I'll want TONS of pictures of that!

I wish I could find perfect storage conditions in our house. My entry way is cold, but humid. My basement is warm and dry. My taters always sprout in late February and by the time we come home after our spring trip, what's left is usually pretty rubbery/wrinkly/sprouty...but usually by April we're tired of taters and switch to rice/noodles/whatever anyways.

judy said...

good info on the potato-who thinks to research these things-not me

Jenyfer Matthews said...

I never believed the bad rap the potato was getting. As you say, it's all in how you prepare it, what you put on it, and how much of it you eat!

I'm surprised you didn't plant a few potatoes this year - surely they aren't such a hands-on sort of crop to tend?? Though I suppose for you, "a few" is a slippery slope! :)

Trailshome said...

I've always wanted a root cellar to store our potatoes and other veggies in, but never had the right place. We have only a crawl space at our home here in Northern Indiana. A few years ago we got the idea to bury metal garbage cans out in our woods to use as root cellars and it's worked out perfectly! The cans are in the ground with only about 2" sticking out. We have one big can for potatoes and another for apples. There are small cans for onions, beets and carrots. We pull a tarp over the filled cans and pile on leaves. We still have fresh, crisp, non-sprouting potatoes in the spring when only soft mushy potatoes are available in the spring. It works great. It always feels so good and secure to think of them out there full and waiting to hold us over winter.

Lisa said...

Good Morning Mama Pea!
We love potatoes here too! You're right in that home grown potatoes have a far superior taste to grocery bought, but I've failed miserably every time I've tried to grow potatoes. Then factor in our mild winters which means we really do not have a means for long term storage for extras... though I've never been able to grow even enough to eat for a dinner, extras are always part of the goal, right?! And thank you so much for all the information you included, as well as your pics. Great post. BTW, what are your thoughts on the glycemic index on the white potato. That is another area where it seems they are cut off the list right away.

odiie said...

My son snacks on potatoes all of the time. (He's 14, he snacks on everything all the time!) Good to know that they're so good for him. Anyways, we had a good crop this year, thankfully. Want me to mail you a few pounds???

Mama Pea said...

Leigh - It's true, I think our food preferences are formed early in life. Although I think the majority of us in the U.S. do like our potatoes. As far as your potato crop . . . there's always next year!

Yvette - What is it about a crunchy, raw potato? I can remember snitching pieces when my mom was preparing dinner. Had to have salt and pepper on it though.

Sue - Storing them can be a real bugaboo, for sure. I think I'd opt for cool and humid over warm and dry any day. It's a challenge!

judy - Thank you, ma'am!

Jen - You gave me a good chuckle. A slippery slope, indeed!

Trailshome - I've always read about burying a garbage can for a mini root cellar but you are the first person I've known of that did it successfully! Our frost goes way too deep up here for it to work for us. But congrats to you!

Lisa - Perhaps balancing the diet is more important than anything else. And moderation? Supposedly the glycemic index of most potatoes is in the medium range and there is some research that says new potatoes and certain varieties of white potatoes are lower in carbohydrates. I guess that makes sense (for the new potatoes anyway) if the sugar content increases the longer they are in storage.

odiie - Congrats on your good potato crop this year! Don't mail me a few pounds . . . with the way postage has gone up, it would cost you about $50!!!

Erin said...

You don't have to convince this Irish girl! I love potatoes! I will often add lowfat cottage cheese as a topping instead of all the other junk and it's quite a nutritious meal :)

Mama Pea said...

Erin - Never tried the cottage cheese but I do love sour cream, so maybe it would be kinda like that?