Weatherford Democrat


January 18, 2008

Gardening is the purest of human pleasures

Jo Anne Boudreau, Democrat Columnist

It’s potato planting time. Potatoes are one of the world’s most important foods. Most restaurants meals include potatoes. Restaurant baked potatoes, best called steamed potatoes because they’re wrapped in foil for quick cooking are boring and tasteless ... boiled in foil. I scrub a big potato clean, slather the skin with plenty of olive oil, make a tiny knife slit in the skin so it won’t explode in the oven and bake it until it’s slightly soft inside when squeezed and the skin is crispy and brown. That’s a baked potato. I eat skin and all with plenty of real butter, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Just beneath the skin are significant quantities of manganese, chromium, selenium and molybdenum. The skin is loaded with vitamins C and B and potassium. Fifty percent of a potato’s potassium is lost during boiling. Steaming, baking and frying do not reduce much potassium. I bake potatoes for potato salad.

Eat potatoes in the Peruvian Andes where they originated and they are far from boring. These tiny “papas” are knobby in shape and size with stupendous colors of black skinned with bright yellow flesh, or with rose-colored skin and flesh, or in all shades of purples and blues. Their taste is earthy and sweet. Only in texture are they comparable to our common potatoes. You can find these heirloom varieties of potatoes in seed catalogs. Many are showing up in produce and farmer’s markets today.

Potatoes are of the night shade family of plants and often shunned by those with rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. A doctor I studied with years ago said to serve garlic or onions with potatoes and other members of the night shade family, which includes peppers and eggplants, to counteract the painful effects. This is most likely why sprinkling chives on baked potatoes became popular. Potato juice has antibiotic properties and neutralized body acids and kills the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers and gall stones. Potatoes help lower blood pressure, build the digestive system and nourish the pancreas. There is more fiber in a baked potato than in a cup of wheat bran. This fiber helps clean the heart and arteries and lower cholesterol. Do not eat potato eyes or any green-colored skin or flesh. It contains a poisonous alkaloid solanine. This alkaloid is a nerve poison that can cause drowsiness, itching, diarrhea and vomiting.

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