Meet our writers

 

Go60 YUM - articles about food and the joys of dining
YUM articles - The enjoyment of food

Food Ventures

Potatoes –Naturally Nutritious Comfort Food

By Ann Hattes
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Today the average American eats 49 pounds of fresh and 90 pounds of processed spuds each year. Baked, fried, scalloped or mashed, chances are the potatoes you eat were grown in Idaho. Idaho produces more potatoes than any other state, about 30 percent of the nation’s total production.

Cool weather equals comfort food cravings but those cravings don’t have to mean extra calories. It’s a surprise for many to discover that one medium potato (5.3 oz.) with the skin contains 45 percent of the daily value for vitamin C; as much or more potassium (620 mg) than either bananas, spinach or broccoli; 10 percent of the daily value of B6; and trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and zinc, all for only 110 calories and no fat. Potatoes are also a source of dietary fiber known to increase satiety and help with weight loss.

Potatoes have been a part of daily meals for hundreds of years. The cultivation is believed to date back to 500 B.C. Their hardiness made them an ideal crop for the mountainous regions of Peru. From there, they made their way into Europe in the early 1500s when the Spanish came to South America in search of gold and silver, and carried potatoes back to their homeland aboard their ships.

Today the average American eats 49 pounds of fresh and 90 pounds of processed spuds each year. Baked, fried, scalloped or mashed, chances are the potatoes you eat were grown in Idaho. Idaho produces more potatoes than any other state, about 30 percent of the nation’s total production. Scientists consider this an “optimum growing region” due to consistent warm days and cool nights, rich volcanic soil and plentiful irrigation supplied by the mountain snows and the Snake River Aquifer. Mormon pioneers laid the foundation for the state’s potato industry when a century ago they constructed the first system of irrigation canals, making the desert bloom.

Although Russet Burbank potatoes are grown in other places, those produced in Idaho are of the best quality, setting standards for other states. Idaho’s Bingham County harvests over 20 million 100-pound sacks every year, making it the “Potato Capital of the World.”

The Potato Museum (www.IdahoPotatoMuseum.com), located in a 1912 historic railroad depot in the city of Blackfoot, tells about the history and production of the potato from farm to table. Exhibits include antique farm equipment, over 100 potato mashers, and the World’s Largest Potato Chip according to the Book of Guinness World Records. There’s also the famous Marilyn Monroe poster featuring the movie star dressed in a burlap sack while gracing a potato field.

Digging potatoes by horse-drawn wagon was no easy task, so gradually there was mechanization. During World War II, the first mechanical sorter was invented for efficient packaging of potatoes destined for the military. The advent of sprinkler irrigation over the past two decades has allowed 250,000 more acres of potatoes to be planted in Bingham County alone.

With russets, reds, fingerlings, blues, purples, yellows and whites, there’s always a new color or texture to experiment with. No time to boil or bake? That’s a good thing. The quickest methods for cooking potatoes, microwaving and steaming, are also the healthiest because they allow the potato to retain the most nutritional value. Potato casserole, potato salad, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, roasted potatoes can all be made in less than 20 minutes and without turning on the oven or boiling water.

For healthy potato recipes beyond those here, visit www.potatogoodness.com.

 

Microwave Baked Potatoes

Serves 4

 

Cut a thin wedge lengthwise (1/8-inch wide and ½-inch deep) out of four medium (5 to 6-ounce) potatoes. Place in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave on HIGH, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes depending on strength of microwave. Use oven mitts to remove dish from microwave. (The wedge allows steam to fully escape from the potato, resulting in a dry and fluffy pulp.)

What you top your potato with determines how healthy it is. Delicious alternatives to usual toppings include broccoli spears and low-fat Cheddar; salsa, nonfat yogurt and cilantro; vegetarian chili; marinara sauce and parmesan cheese; bacon bits; grilled veggies; healthy buttery spread and sea salt.

 

Cookout Potatoes

Makes 6 to 8 servings

 

Nonstick cooking spray

1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 & ½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, very thinly sliced

1 & 1/3 cups shredded low-fat sharp Cheddar cheese

1/3 cup real bacon bits

1/3 cup chopped bell pepper (any color)

½ teaspoon garlic salt

 

Spray a 9 x 9 x 2-inch foil pan liberally with nonstick cooking spray. Place half the onions, potatoes, cheese, bacon bits, bell pepper and garlic salt in pan. Repeat layers. Cover tightly with foil and grill over medium heat for 1 hour, rotating pan occasionally to avoid hot spots.

 

Potato Tomato Soup

Makes 4 to 6 servings

 

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, sliced

1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 (32 ounce) container chicken broth

1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes

2 teaspoons dry basil

Garlic salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3 cups lightly packed fresh spinach, coarsely chopped

 

Heat oil in a large saucepan; add onion and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes to lightly brown. Stir in celery, potatoes, broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, then puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour back into saucepan and stir in basil, garlic salt and pepper; cook for 5 minutes. Check seasonings, then add spinach and cook a minute or two more to wilt spinach.

For added Italian flavor, add a small swirl of basil pesto and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese to each bowl.

 

Ann Hattes has over 25 years experience writing about both travel and food for publications both in the US and internationally. A senior living in Wisconsin, she’s a member of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association and the Midwest Travel Writers Association.

Meet Ann