The Rebel with a Clue: Meet the Purple Potato

Potatoes get a bad rap.  Ever since someone (purportedly, the Belgians) decided to fry them in a vat of oil and shake one’s recommended daily intake of sodium all over them, potatoes have been shunned by many ‘experts.’  I’ve read that Thomas Jefferson is credited with bringing the recipe to the United States and serving them at Monticello around 1800.  Coincidentally, Jefferson has also been quoted as saying, “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing…”  Sort of like the dietitian’s version of “everything in moderation?”  

The art of turning a potato into a French fry is somewhat of a recent development compared with potatoes themselves.  Potato cultivation traces back to the ancient ruins of Peru and Chile where the Incas regarded this vegetable as a deity.   And a vegetable it is, thought it is often misclassified as ‘carbohydrate’ due to its high starch content. (Diabetics, who have difficulty controlling their blood sugar levels due to impaired insulin function, are often encouraged to ‘carbohydrate count’  when they eat, where the potato falls under the prescription to count.)    Additionally, Americans and the food industry have gotten a bit too liberal with this vegetable at the expense of their health; mashing with butter and/or heavy cream; topping with sour cream, cheese, and bacon bits; processing into bags of thin crisps loaded with perservatives — it’s a wonder how we even know what a basic potato looks like, let alone its nutritional value.

The unadorned, unprocessed potato is a very versatile and healthful food to incorporate into your diet.  Potatoes have tons of potassium, fiber and B vitamins; and not all potatoes are created equal — enter the Purple Potato from my CSA.  Admittedly, I called it a sweet potato in the orginal post which I have since gone back and corrected; it wasn’t until I sliced into one of these that I realized there is so much more to potatoes than russet and sweet. 

CSA Trifecta - leeks, turnips, potatoes

The purple potato provides a prime example of why dietitians instruct to ‘eat in color.’  The purple hue is due to the anthocyanin content, the same antioxidant in blueberries that makes it such a superfood.  Compared with other varieties, these purple-fleshed potatoes have a medium starch content and mild flavor making them good for all-purpose use. 

So after getting over the initial shock of the purple staring back at me, I washed, cut into wedges, and roasted with fellow CSA-buddies turnips and leeks (425 degree oven for about 30 minutes).  For a beautiful pictorial and easy recipe to prepare, try Smitten Kitchen’s suggestion.  And, remember that you don’t need to bathe them in oil and salt to enjoy the potato ; in its most raw form, it is a wholesome addition to any diet, particularly when it’s purple.

3 responses to “The Rebel with a Clue: Meet the Purple Potato

  1. Interesting….where does the red potato fall into the nuitrition chart for potatoes….and if you take off the potato’s skin… is “a potato” a potato the same as a potato by any other name?

    • Starch content is the biggest difference. Red potatoes are higher in moisture and lower in starch, making them good for boiling, roasting, and potato salads. Moisture helps potatoes hold their shape after cooking, and with less starch, they are not as absorbant. Russet or Idaho potatoes are your typical ‘baked potato’ as they have low moisture and high starch, also makes them good for mashing and French fries. The high starch content causes flesh to plump up and break apart, sucking up any moisture that comes along (that’s where the butter and sour cream come into play). The skin of all potatoes have a ton of fiber and phytochemicals. Leaving the potato skins on help to preserve the nutrients in the flesh of the potato which can escape during cooking. Potatoes are known for their rich potassium content; the concentration of potassium is higher in the skin and just beneath it. So swapping the peeler for a good scrub brush makes good nutritional sense!

  2. I like to use purple potatoes because they have such a vibrant color! Sweet potatoes are wonderful as well.

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