As we breeze our way into Fall, comfort food is the name of the game. Root vegetables offer not only comfort, but also the grounding needed to get up and going as the weather turns colder. Let’s consider the simple and unassuming, but wildly popular, potato!
Nutritional info on potatoes
A single cup serving of a potato is a good source of:
- Vitamin C (25% of DV)
- Vitamin B6 (20% of DV)
- Copper (20% of DV)
- Potassium (15% of DV)
- Manganese (14% of DV)
- Dietary Fiber (14% of DV)
Nutritionally dense, the same 1 cup serving is only 58 calories.
To keep the benefits of this fibrous veggie intact, avoid adding butter or sour cream, or deep frying. For a bit of healthful flavor, add some yogurt and chives. Not only will you be getting the probiotic power of yogurt, but also the protein power.
Antioxidant Phytonutrients are part of this tuber’s charm. Included are carotennoids, flavonoids, and caffeic acid, and patatin, all which knock-out free radicals. New research from the Agricultural Research Service has found that the potato is an antioxidant powerhouse that can contend with the goodness found in spinach, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Potatoes are a lively and nutritional addition to your diet.
Potatoes are from South America and have been grown in the Andes for somewhere between 4,000-7,000 years. The potato is easy to grow in high altitudes, which explains its profundity. There are over 5,000 varieties of potatoes in the world and 3,000 of them are grown in the Andes. Of all of these, about 100 are cultivated for edibility.
The potato was introduced to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Spanish sailors used potatoes aboard ship to prevent scurvy.
Yet, the spread of the potato was hard-won. Even though the potato is easy and inexpensive to grow, people were suspicious of this tuber since it is a member of the nightshade (translated as ‘poisonous’) family. But also, because the potato went unmentioned in biblical texts, some people believed that potatoes would cause disease.
Of course, the famous Irish Potato Famine is legendary, causing one of the largest diasporas in history. A blight caused widespread starvation throughout Ireland, killing over 750,000 people. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people emigrated from Ireland to find succor elsewhere.
Potatoes were imported to the United States in the 18th century by the Irish (irony, anyone?) Due to prejudice and distrust, non-Irish immigrants avoided this tuber. It wasn’t until the 19th century, with proven ease of cultivation and cheap production, that the potato finally caught on.
Over time, the reputation of this vegetable changed, but only with a grand marketing scheme. Many governments made efforts to ‘rebrand’ the potato. And the rest, as they say, is history - the potato is now the #1 produced veggie crop in the world.
Selection and Storage of potatoes
Avoid purchasing the big plastic bag of potatoes. The plastic can sometimes hasten the decay of the entire bag of potatoes. Instead, choose from the bulk bin, which allows you to choose each potato individually. Don’t bother with potatoes that have been pre-cleaned. A potato still in its ‘dirt’ has greater protection from any bacteria that may be picked up along its transport from farm to store.
Choose tubers that are firm and smooth. Pass up any that are oddly shaped or showing dry or wet rot. Avoid potatoes that are sprouting or green in color. The green coloring is indicative of solanine, a toxic substance which can cause headaches, diarrhea, and circulatory or respiratory issues.
Potatoes store best in a dark, dry place, with a temperature between 45-50o F (7-10oC). And while most modern families don’t have a root cellar, you should be able to find a place in your home where you can emulate these conditions.
But avoid the fridge as it breaks down the starch in the tuber into sugar—destroying the taste of the potato. Avoid direct sunlight as it hastens decay and the production of solanine. Store potatoes in a paper or burlap sack. Don’t store potatoes near any onions as they will hasten each other’s decay.
Potato Apple Harvest Pancakes
Combined with the harvest sweetness of apples, Potato Apple Pancakes offer the perfect weekend pick-me-up to get your day flowing!
- 2 cups potato pulp
- ½ cup apple pulp - Click here for nutritional benefits of Apples
- 1 ½ cups almond or other nut milk - Click here for a nutritional profile on Almonds
- 4 egg whites or egg replacement
- ½ cups spelt or quinoa flour
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 ½ tsps sea salt or real salt
- Oil spray, ghee, or light oil for cooking
- Apple topping (recipe below)
Mix all pulp and nut milk in a small bowl. In a large bowl, mix egg whites, flour, and spices. Add pulp mixture and blend. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Use 3 Tbs of batter per pancake. Brown until crispy on each side. Serve with Apple Topping.
- Apple pulp
- Add ½ tsp of apple juice to moisten
- 6 medium apples = 2 cups of juice
- 6 medium apples = 1 ½ cups of pulp
- 8 potatoes = approx 2 cups pulp