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.
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.