FOOD MATTERS: Versatile potato packs hefty nutrient punch

NANAIMO: The potato plays a wondrously subversive economic role.

The potato plays a wondrously subversive economic role because, despite being the world’s fourth-largest food crop, potatoes are not susceptible to trading on the world stock exchanges.

Wheat is easily stored therefore easily gambled with. Coffee prices fluctuate at the whim of commodity futures markets. But potatoes are quintessentially local crops, grown and bought and sold all around the world at prices that are set locally and not subject to international speculation.

For more than 40 years my husband has grown root vegetables and stored them over the winter as nourishing staple foods for our family. This year our potato crop will not last us into summer. So I ordered and paid for online 50 pounds of organic Yukon golds.

Until next year’s crop we will have potatoes baked, twice-baked, mashed, roasted plain or Greek-style, scalloped, hashed or homefried, in curries and salads and latkes.

The potato has a bad rep for two main reasons. First is the mistaken assumption that they provide too many calories for too little nourishment. It is the extra butter or sour cream that gives the extra calories. If you use olive oil with a little butter, or substitute Balkan yogurt for sour cream, you can dress the potato deliciously.

The second lingering cloud is historic. The Irish famine of the 19th century is blamed on the potato because of the blight that wiped out the whole crop and killed a million people in a nation of eight million. Actually, there was a lesson to that tragedy: a lesson on the folly of monoculture. Only one variety of potato was being grown, therefore its susceptibility to that particular fungus was complete.

The Scottish household in which I grew up had a chip pan to make French fries. However, I believe in limiting deep-fried foods, so I have identified places where good poutine or fish and chips are made and I enjoy such delicacies as special treats.

The trick to happy eating is not to avoid all rich food, but to indulge sparingly.


Marjorie Stewart is board chair of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at: marjoriean

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