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Potatoes and Resistant Starch


The last couple of years, one of Jon and Trish's friends out in Fort Morgan has invited all of us to come potato gleaning. The friend, who grows potatoes for companies like Frito Lay, leases fields from farmers, grows the potatoes, harvests the potatoes and then turns the field back over to the farmer who tills it and preps it for the next season's harvest, whatever it might be. In between the potato harvest and the tilling is a window of gleaning opportunity. The machines harvest most of the potatoes but many are left behind: the ones that are too big, the ones that are too small, the ones that get dumped if the truck tips a bit, the ones that are in ground that's too wet, etc., etc. So the hard part of gleaning isn't finding potatoes so much, it's knowing when to stop. We're not very good at that so mostly we've come home every year with the bed of the 4-Runner completely filled with potatoes and by spring we're frantically giving potatoes away before they sprout. Speaking of which, it's spring, want some potatoes?

Anyways, one of the problems with the modern potato is it's mostly one big ball of starch and seeing that much of our winter food supply for the last few years has consisted of said balls of starch, we've had to do some learning. Last year we ran across a reference in Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson, which is a really great book by the way, that the starch in potatoes can be modified by refrigeration. We tried it and it really did make a difference. Unrefrigerated baked potatoes can give me a stomach ache, particularly in the spring, but refrigerated baked potatoes don't. Very interesting. Shortly after this discovery Christy went to a herbalism seminar and the presenter pretty much poo-pooed our learning, which made us wonder about it ourselves. Then, the other day I found it, a second witness! In the Natural Grocers newsletter was an article titled Resistant Starch May Just Help You Resist Those Sugar Cravings about resistant starch and it's benefits to anyone wanting to lose weight, or stabilize blood sugar, or absorb more nutrients from their food...what's not to like? It was fascinating, and yes it mentioned refrigerated potatoes specifically. Wahoo! Plus it referenced several legitimate, authentic, scientific studies, which is great, assuming they weren't funded by some potato association somewhere of course. So we shall again be able to confidently refrigerate our cooked potatoes, knowing that it really is making a difference and it's not just a figment of our imaginations.

This year we are going to go even further to improve the nutrient density of our potato supply: we are going to plant purple and red potatoes! (although I'm sure we also won't be able to resist the urge to glean large numbers of free potatoes too). We learned about these great alternatives to the quintessential russet in Eating on the Wild Side as well. Colored alternatives to the normal white fleshed potatoes, including Mountain Rose, Purple Majesty, and All Blue, can actually lower the blood pressure of people with hypertension, inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells, lower the risk of stroke and heart attack, etc., etc., etc. How exciting! Plus you get to eat purple mashed potatoes! Okay, that will take some getting used to.

It is always encouraging to find ways that nutrition and health can also be exciting and delicious too. Happy eating!

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