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Living Well In Yalobusha County

Potatoes Provide Valuable Nutrition

By Pamela Redwine

The potato is a tuber-that is, not a root but a fattened underground stem that stores surplus carbohydrates for the leafy green plant sprouting above the soil.  Left alone, the green plant eventually bears fruit resembling small green tomatoes which are emphatically not good eating.  During the last two hundred years the potato has acquired unparalleled importance in the vegetable world.  It is produced in vastly greater quantities than any other vegetable.

Potatoes are an important source of complex carbohydrates.  In addition, they contain vitamins C and B6, iron, and potassium.  One raw small potato provides 73 calories, 2 grams of protein, and no fat.  The most common varieties of potatoes fall into 1 of 4 categories.  

Round Red potatoes are waxy, smooth skinned, and good for boiling. The Round Whites, also boiling potatoes, have tannish skin. Long Whites are all-purpose potatoes, oblong in shape with tan skin and few eyes.  The Russet or Idaho potato is a long, slightly flattened cylinder with brown leathery skin that has the look of netting. The Russet is the perfect potato for baking.  When any potato is harvested young, it is called a “new” potato.  The skin is thin and fragile and apt to tear; low in starch and high in moisture, new potatoes are what cookbooks mean when “waxy” potatoes are called for.

Selecting Potatoes

Choose each one carefully.  With new potatoes, look for firm potatoes that are free from blemishes and sunburn (a green discoloration under the skin).  Some amount of skinned surface is normal, but potatoes with large skinned and discolored areas are undesirable. For general-purpose and baking potatoes, look for reasonably smooth, firm potatoes free from blemishes, sunburn and decay.

Avoid potatoes with large cuts, bruises, or decay (they’ll cause waste in peeling) and sprouted or shriveled potatoes.

Preparation Methods

Gently scrub potatoes with a vegetable brush or cellulose sponge to clean. Try to leave skin on potatoes during the cooking process to conserve nutrients.  If potatoes are peeled before cooking, use a vegetable peeler to keep peelings as thin as possible, since some of the potato’s nutrients are found close the skin.  Peeled potatoes will turn dark if not cooked right away.  

To protect the whiteness, toss them with ascorbic acid or a little lemon juice. White, medium, whole potatoes should be boiled for 25 to 40 minutes. They should be steamed for 30 to 45 minutes. When microwaving, bake on high for 3 to 5 minutes for 1 medium, 5 to 7 minutes for 2 medium potatoes. Rest covered for 3 minutes.

When baking they should take about 45 to 60 minutes.  You can plan on about one pound of potatoes per serving. Herbs to use with potatoes include: basil leaves, bay leaves, caraway seed, celery seed, chives, dill, herb seasoning, mustard seed, oregano, parsley flakes, poppy seed, rosemary, or thyme.


Handle potatoes gently.  Bruised potatoes turn dark and begin to rot.  Store potatoes in a cool (45 to 50 degrees F), humid (not wet), dark place with good ventilation. When potatoes are correctly stored, they will remain fresh for up to a month.  If potatoes are stored in a warm placed, such as under the sink, they may attract bugs and rodents. They will sprout and shrivel. Throw away potatoes that are shriveled or have many sprouts.  If potatoes are stored where they are exposed to light, they turn green, produce a toxic substance, and develop a bitter flavor.  Peel off green areas before using.

Recipe of the week

Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

  • 3 medium russet potatoes (about 1 pound total), peeled and cubed
  • 2 med. sweet potatoes (about 1 pd total), peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup fat –free (skim) milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey
  • 2 packages (4 ounces each) sliced mixed mushrooms
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) fat free beef gravy
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup frozen baby peas, thawed
  • Then follow these steps:

1. Place russet and sweet potato cubes in medium saucepan.  Cover with water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 20 minutes or until potatoes are very tender. Drain potatoes; return to saucepan. Mash potatoes; stir in milk and salt.

2. Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Spray large ovenproof skillet with cooking spray. Crumble turkey into skillet; add mushrooms. Cook and stir over medium high heat until turkey is no longer pink (or 165 degrees F) and mushrooms begin to give off their liquid; drain. Add gravy, thyme and pepper; simmer 5 minutes. Stir in peas; cook until heated through. Remove skillet from heat.

3. Spread potato mixture over turkey mixture; spray with cooking spray. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat source about 5 minutes or until mixture is hot and topping begins to brown.

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