For the Love of Potatoes

This post was written by one of our summer farmers, Sean Davenport, who loves his potatoes!

photo of potato harvest

Yellow Finn, German Butterball, Red Gold, Kennebec, Katahdin, and Purple Viking Potatoes harvested and awaiting delivery in the shed.

“What I say is that, if a fellow really likes potatoes, he must be a decent sort of fellow.”

– A.A. Milne

photo of potata and plant

A German Butterball Potato emerges from the soil.

The potato is not just your average vegetable. It is, in fact, an extraordinary one. Due to our nation’s obsession with fatty foods, the potato, through the form of French fries, has become the most commonly consumed vegetable in the United States. But who can blame us? French fries are so good!

photo of the group harvesting potatoes

The Sander family, Greg, and Sean search through the soil to find the tubers hiding just below the surface.

Besides fries, potatoes can be prepared in a plethora of delicious ways ways. Roasted potatoes happen to be my favorite style, especially with some onion tossed in. This past week my mom made roasted potatoes twice, using potatoes fresh from the Farm – red golds and German butterballs. The mashed potato remains another popular American preparation, symbolic of the traditional family dinner. Baked potatoes are absolutely amazing too, with or without sour cream.

photo of potato in hand

Potatoes come in all shapes and sizes!

For a fancier affair, try potatoes au gratin – thinly sliced potatoes layered with melted cheese. Home fries are served with almost every meal ordered in an American diner, and potato skins are a staple bar food (and perhaps my favorite appetizer of all). Potatoes are also versatile in how you can use them. Bake them into potato rolls, or make some latkes. Even try a little Italian and whip up some gnocchi.

photo of purple viking potatoes

Potatoes also come in an array of colors: purple, blue, yellow, red, pink, and browns. Purple Viking potatoes pictured here.

No matter how you prepare a potato, it is going to be delicious. I love potatoes. No matter where I go I know that I can find comfort in eating this most glorious of vegetables. – Sean Davenport (Class of 2015)

photo of harvest dog

Zuri helped with the harvest too!

~~~

Do you know potatoes?

 

  • Potatoes were first cultivated 7,000 years ago (but evidence shows they were growing in the wild up to 13,000 years ago) by the Incas in Peru.*
  • According to Dr. Hector Flores, “the most probable place of origin of potatoes is located between the south of Peru and the northeast of Bolivia. The archaeological remains date from 400 B.C. and have been found on the shores of Lake Titicaca…. There are many expressions of the extended use of the potato in the pre-Inca cultures from the Peruvian Andes, as you can see in the Nazca and Chimu pottery.”*
  • When the European diet expanded to include potatoes, not only were farmers able to produce much more food, they also gained protection against the catastrophe of a grain crop failure and periodic population checks caused by famine.*
  • Highly nutritious potatoes also helped mitigate the effects of such diseases as scurvy, tuberculosis, measles and dysentery.*
  • Potatoes became a staple in the Irish diet by 1800.*
  • By the early 1840s, almost one-half of the Irish population had become entirely dependent upon the potato, specifically on just one or two high-yielding varieties.*
  • Potatoes are the leading vegetable crop in the USA and comprise 29% of our vegetable consumption – about 130 pounds per person every year.**
  • More than 1/2 of the annual consumption is processed rather than fresh (ex. fast food french fries or potato chips).**
  • Potatoes are the most important vegetable crop in the USA.**
  • Potatoes are only topped by wheat flour in importance in the American diet.**
  • Potatoes are rich in minerals, vitamins, calories, and protein, and very low in fat.**
  • As well as providing starch, an essential component of the diet, potatoes are rich in Vitamin C, high in Potassium and an excellent source of fiber. In fact, potatoes alone supply every vital nutrient except calcium, Vitamin A and Vitamin D.*

Sources:

*Chapman, Jeff. “The Impact of The Potato” in History Magazine.

**Blatt, Harvey. 2008. “America’s Food: What You Don’t Know About What You Eat”.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Pages 185-6.

~~~

And now a few words from Tom Paxton, an American singer songwriter who playfully shares all of the ways to prepare potatoes in his song below.

“Don’t Slay the Potato”

By, Tom Paxton

How can you do it? It’s heartless, it’s cruel.
It’s murder, cold-blooded, it’s gross.
To slay a poor vegetable just for your stew
Or to serve with some cheese sauce on toast.
Have you no decency? Have you no shame?
Have you no conscience, you cad,
To rip that poor vegetable out of the earth
Away from its poor mom and dad?

CHORUS:
Oh, no, don’t slay that potato!
Let us be merciful, please.
Don’t boil it or fry it, don’t even freeze-dry it.
Don’t slice it or flake it.
For God’s sake, don’t bake it!
Don’t shed the poor blood
Of this poor helpless spud.
That’s the worst kind of thing you could do.
Oh, no, don’t slay that potato
What never done nothing to you!

Why not try picking on something your size
Instead of some carrot or bean?
The peas are all trembling there in their pod
Just because you’re so vicious and mean.
How would you like to be grabbed by your hair
And ruthlessly yanked from your bed
And have done to you God knows what horrible things,
To be eaten with full-fiber bread?
(CHORUS)

It’s no bed of roses, this vegetable life.
You’re basically stuck in the mud.
You don’t get around much. You don’t see the sights
When you’re a carrot or celery or spud.
You’re helpless when somebody’s flea-bitten dog
Takes a notion to pause for relief.
Then somebody picks you and cleans you and eats you
And causes you nothing but grief.
(CHORUS)

There ought to be some way of saving our skins.
They ought to be passing a law.
Just show anybody a cute little lamb
And they’ll all stand around and go “Aw!”
Well, potatoes are ugly. Potatoes are plain.
We’re wrinkled and lumpy to boot.
But give me a break, kid. Do you mean to say
That you’ll eat us because we’re not cute?

Oh, no, don’t slay that potato!
Let us be merciful, please.
Don’t boil it or fry it, don’t even freeze-dry it.
Don’t slice it or flake it.
For God’s sake, don’t bake it!
Don’t shed the poor blood
Of this poor helpless spud.
That’s the worst kind of thing you could do.
Oh, no, don’t slay that potato
What never done nothing to you!

Leave a Reply