Friday, 21 November 2008

Focus on... Potatoes

This is going to end up being massive if i'm not careful. The basics will be discussed here and links profided (as usual) for those of you who can't get enough spud knowledge!

I'm Northern Irish so to me it just makes sense to begin with what was the end for many ancestors - the potato famine and then i shall talk about wider history and nutrional facts. By the way the potato over there > is a Maris Piper, my favourite.

Info today comes from: (brilliant for all things spud related)

So the Irish (or Great) Famine lasted from 1846 to 1852 and lead to the deaths of approx 1 million people in Ireland due to starvation and disease. Even compared to modern famines it can be said to be more destructive as it lasted for 4-5 years (!) as opposed to the more common 1 or 2 growing seasons. Around one eight of the population of Ireland suffered and 2 million had to emigrate to survive. Of course we are all aware that the devastation was caused by potato blight - or to give it its proper name, the fungus Phytophthora infestans. Which we still get to this day and indeed our allotments suffered from it this summer, though cutting back the stems at first signs seemed to halt the problem.

According to the British Potato Council (they 'love potatoes') our humble spud was an exotic gift brought back from Peru by the Spanish conquistadors in 1534. It had been cultivated there for approx 6,000 years. Their popularity then spread through France via Germany and then on to America again, to complete a circle. There is much more to this, but I'm bored and I'm sure you don't really mind me skipping head to nutritional values....

Tatties are a carbohydrate which in this case means mainly Starch, not easy for the body to digest so, essentially it acts as Fibre. It 'provides bulk, offers protection against colon cancer, improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, lowers plasma cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, increases satiety, and possibly even reduces fat storage'!!!!

It also has healthy benefits in the form of but not exclusively: Vitamins C , B and B6, Potassium, Folic Acid, Iron and Zinc. Plus they are low in fat and Calories - hoorah!! And Holy Moly I didn't know it but it's the UN's International Year of the potato (IYP). Surely we must celebrate?! You know I heartily recommend the British Potato Council's website there is so much info and recipes etc.

Now I leave you what a caution - potatoes can be TOXIC! I know it's scary, but read on...

'Potatoes contain glycoalkaloids, toxic compounds, of which the most prevalent are solanine and chaconine. These compounds, which protect the plant from its predators, are generally concentrated in its leaves, stems, and sprouts. Exposure to light, physical damage, and age increase glycoalkaloid content within the tuber; the highest concentrations occur just underneath the skin. Glycoalkaloids may cause headaches, diarrhea, cramps and in severe cases coma and death; however, poisoning from potatoes occurs very rarely.'

That's why you have to keep earthing up your plants - keep off the light. So keep an eye on the ones you eat and avoid green ones as it can indicate toxicity.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Potato - grow, harvest, eat and enjoy!


    Hi Carrie
    I have been following your blog and it's so great to see your enthusiasm, especially as you have mentioned how ill you feel some days. Writing your blog must be a real tonic for you, and it's great to read.
    I have added my blog link above as I have looked for it online and can't find it, so it seems that unless I give the web address nobody will ever get to read it, not that it really matters that much ! as I enjoy writing it as a personal account of how I started and what I will achieve.
    Keep the posts coming !

  2. It is a tonic for me and this week has been particularily bad so i am so thankful for something to do.
    I hope your blog gets some interest soon, I've posted it on my blog, to help you out a little.
    Lovely to get your comments.

  3. I hope you feel better soon Carrie :)

    I love potatoes I have to say. We have a saying in our house "Boil 'em, stew 'em, stick 'em in a pipe!" - aftermy hubby ingeniously used a potato to block the dishwasher pipe so he could unblock the pipe further down by plunging the sink..... I am still amazed that it actually worked lol!


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