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Health Food of the month - Potatoes

May 2019

Small potatoes being harvested by hand
New potatoes really do taste different!

Previous Health Foods of the Month...


Curds and Whey

Goats' meat


Diet & Supplements Index

New potatoes – a nutritious top favourite

Isn’t it amazing that potatoes were only introduced into Britain just over 400 years ago. Before that turnips, breads and in certain areas oat cakes all helped to give extra substance to family meals. It was thanks to Queen Elizabeth 1st’s favour Sir Walter Raleigh that we came to love potatoes here in Britain. He first introduced them into Ireland in 1589, although they had been grown in South American since before 5,000 years BC.

The potato, from the perennial solanum tuberosum plant, is now one of the world’s largest food crops along with rice, wheat and maize.
Potatoes are more of a health food than many people realise. A medium, unsalted plain baked potato with skin will only have around 160 calories and is naturally fat and cholesterol free. On top of that, potatoes are full of phytonutrients, organic components of plants such as carotenoids, flavonoids and caffeic acid that promote health. Potatoes offer levels of vitamins B3, B6 and C, copper, potassium, manganese, phosphorous and pantothenic acid. They also provide a good source of fibre.

Potatoes often receive bad media as being fattening or detrimental to good health, but this is really based on the cooking method. Potatoes cooked soft and mashed up with lots of butter and cream or potatoes cut into little strips and fried or roasted hard in saturated fats are not the best way to eat this nutritional vegetable.

But nice fresh potatoes, steamed, baked or boiled, can not only be tasty but also be a really useful addition to any diet.

The freshness like any vegetable is important. Potatoes will last about three to five weeks in the pantry or up to four months in a refrigerator. They have a long season, with early potatoes ready by June and July and maincrops ready to lift between August and October. Some potatoes can be kept fresh for longer with specific storage methods such as low lighting used by professional potato growers.

The new potatoes coming into season now are very much in demand in Britain and often the first batch of new potatoes is eagerly awaited, small really fresh potatoes that can seem moister and sweeter than later crops.

There are many varieties of new potatoes now available but one that has long been a top favourite for many years is the Jersey Royal.  This is because this island in the Channel Islands offers some unique growing advantages. Along with a milder climate than mainland UK, Jersey slopes from north to south so benefits from a large level of sunlight during the growing season. Also, its soil is nutrient rich, enhanced by a local seaweed. This makes Jersey potatoes especially full of flavour and also gives them a unique texture.  Because many of the Jersey Royals are grown in fields which are too steep to be harvested mechanically, they are handpicked ensuring minimal damage.

A good tip for enjoying the current new potatoes coming into the shops now is to keep the skin on; most of the flavour and goodness lies just beneath the surface. Simply give them a wash and steam or boil until tender. 


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