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.
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