Mmm, mmm, mmm.
*Insert image of me closing my eyes, lifting my eyebrows, and smiling reallllly big.*
I’m not actually going to do that.
Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are one of my favorite vegetables.
It saddens me that over the last couple of years, they’ve gotten a bad rap as a “starchy, white, unhealthy vegetable”.
Good thing I don’t listen to everything the internet tells me.
Potatoes have gotten the bad health rap mainly due to their high Glycemic Index rating. What the Glycemic Index does is measure how a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose.
Yes, potatoes are high in carbs… But for me, those carbs are outweighed by the nutitional benefits of eating potatoes.
*Please note that I am not a nutritional expert. I am just simply comparing and contrasting my own opinion on the benefits vs. the negatives of potatoes, and why I continue to eat them in my diet. If you have diabetes or need to watch your carbohydrate intake for some reason, obviously eating a pound of potatoes IS NOT good for you.*
Here’s the nutritional low down:
*Potatoes contain antioxidants. These include vitamin C, carotenoids, and anthocyanins. How many milligrams of antioxidants are in a potato depends on the type you’re eating (russets, yellow, red, purple). So be sure to mix it up and eat a variety of these types.
*Speaking of Vitamin C, potatoes rock in this specific vitamins department. A standard potato (with the skin on) has about 121% of your daily value needed. In comparison, oranges have 160%, and red peppers have 317%!! There’s always going to be a nutritionally better vegetable out there, but potatoes still have 121% of our daily value so I’ll take those numbers!
*Potatoes have 8 grams of fiber (give or take, depending on the variety, and with the skin on).
I love fiber.
Because I don’t enjoy being backed up, thank you very much.
“Potassium is a very important mineral for the proper function of all cells, tissues, and organs in the human body. It is also an electrolyte, a substance that conducts electricity in the body, along with sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium. Potassium is crucial to heart function and plays a key role in skeletal and smooth muscle contraction, making it important for normal digestive and muscular function.” (http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/potassium)
Potatoes, on average have 1554 mg or 44% of your daily value needed. Banana’s only have 806 mg or 23% of your daily value needed! That’s almost double what a banana has, which is the most well known high potassium food in our country.
*Zeros: Potatoes have no fat, sodium or cholesterol!
*****For an in depth nutritional break down see SELF Nutrition Data
Potatoes come from the Genus Solanum or the Nightshade Genus.
The Nightshade Genus is actually one of the largest groups from the plant Family it belongs to (Solanaceae).
There are over 1,400 plant species in this genus.
Solanum, is derived from the Latin word solamen meaning “soothing.”
This would explain why I want potatoes when I’m upset!
Potatoes are one of those vegetables I not only love to eat, but love to grow.
Because they’re super easy.
Potatoes like cool weather. The sooner you can get them in the better. But, they can rot in the ground if planted TOO soon or if the ground becomes too wet so be on the look out for those conditions. I plant my potatoes about 3-4 weeks before the last frost date (depending on the extended forecast). If I know there’s a frost coming, and my plants are already popping out of the ground, I’ll cover them. But usually potatoes take about 2 weeks to make their grand entrance, and are out of harms way just in time.
Now, here are your 5 steps to growing potatoes:
1) Decide what varieties you want to grow.
As I’ve said previously, I love potatoes. My garden currently has 3 types growing, as well as sweet potatoes.
I like to mix it up and usually plant a white, a yellow, and a purple variety.
If your family eats a lot of potatoes like mine does, grow different varieties and don’t just stick with 1 type. I like to plant different kinds of potatoes because I use them for different things. Some potatoes store well, others are good for mashed potatoes, and certain varieties are good for potato salads and baking.
If you’re new to gardening, starting with 1 kind is just fine. A “white” potato is the most versatile in cooking so that is what I would recommend you starting with.
The varieties I personally like and grow are:
*Yukon Gold (yellow)
*Purple Peruvian (purple)
I have not done a whole lot of experimenting with varieties because I enjoy these so much. But I think next year I might switch it up, just to try something new (and I’ll still probably plant a few of these varieties just in case)
2) Decide where your potatoes are going to be planted and how much room you need.
Potatoes need full sun first and foremost. As for soil types potatoes grow in, they can handle a variety of different ones. Clay type soils will stunt growth but they will still produce. The best soil types for growing potatoes are well draining, loose, and full or organic matter. You can easily grow potatoes in pots too!! I’ve done it before and it’s a great alternative if you don’t have space in your garden or just want to try something new.
Depending on how many potatoes you want to grow, decide how large of a space you need. I plant 1 row of each variety, and my rows (at this time) are about 11 feet long. Next year, I plan on expanding them, to have a larger harvest and be able to store more potatoes for year round eating.
Each potato “eye” will produce around 5 potatoes, so keep that in mind when you’re determining how much room you need (We’ll talk about potato “eyes” in just a second). Every potato has between 3-10 eyes each (depending on the variety).
3) Buy your seed potatoes.
Seed potatoes are not ACTUAL seeds. Although potatoes do set seed, most varieties do not grow true to seed.
Meaning, if your potatoes shoot up a stalk that has seeds in it, and you plant those seeds, you won’t get the same type of potatoes that the seeds came from.
Got it? Kinda confusing? Here’s more of an explanation…
To get the variety of potato you want, you need to grow them vegetatively, meaning you re-plant a part of the actual potato. These pieces of potato are referred to as seed potatoes.
**There is the argument out there that by planting the actual seeds of potatoes you create a diverse environment, helping reduce diseases and bug feeding activity.**
I do not recommend using grocery store potatoes as seed potatoes.
Yes, they may sprout “eyes” and be able to be planted, but almost all potatoes are sprayed with chemical to prevent eyes sprouting and to help with shelf life. This will dramatically impact your potato yield. When you buy seed potatoes from a garden center or reputable seed distributor they are going to be free of seed-borne diseases and have been developed to produce high yields and superb quality.
At the very least, if you can’t go buy seed potatoes, buy organic grocery store ones.
4) Cut those babies up.
I know I have to do it, but it hurts me a little when I cut my seed potatoes up.
Each potato you purchase is going to “eyes”.
Here I am, pointing to what an “eye” is.
This is a picture of a sprouted eye:
Before planting, potatoes should be cut up into 1 1/2 to 2 inch sections. Each section needs at least one eye on it.
Personally, I try to cut up my potatoes so that there are at least 2 eyes per section. That makes my pieces 2-3 inches big, but if one eye doesn’t produce or sprout then there is always another one to back it up. I do it this way, because I’m usually planting my seed potatoes early in the Spring and they haven’t sprouted their eyes yet. If your seed potatoes have already sprouted, then the likelihood of them producing is much greater.
Here are some pictures of my cut up potatoes.
I’m pointing out the eyes on each section: (I look pretty cool using a knife as a pointer)
Here’s another big potato debate: Should you plant your cut potatoes right away, or allow the cut part to heal over before planting?
I have never had issues with cutting my potatoes and immediately planting them. But I would go case by case and do what is best for your climate and soil type.
A little more description about what I mean here:
“Researchers suggest you store or cure the cut seeds for two or three days in a humid environment around 70° F. This will promote fast healing of the surface and keep the seed pieces from drying out. When you plant them, the protective covering will retain moisture and energy and serve as a barrier against rot organisms.
Other people feel you should plant the seed immediately after cutting. In a book for home gardeners, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture urged cutting and planting right away saying, “Otherwise, viability will be lowered by loss of moisture and entrance of rot organisms.” ” (http://garden.org/foodguide/browse/veggie/potatoes_planting/567)
5) Dig a trench and drop them in.
Don’t dig a hole for every individual potato piece.
It is SO tedious and unnecessary. I’m all about the fastest and most efficient way to garden.
Digging a trench is super quick and easy.
Dig your trench 3-5 inches deep, and however long you planned.
Place potato pieces 6-9 inches apart, press the cut side against the Earth, eye’s pointed upwards.
Cover with soil and water well.
Potatoes are moisture sensitive so be sure they get consistent moisture after you plant them. Never let potatoes get soaked and then stand in water. They’ll rot and become easily susceptible to disease.
You should begin to see your potatoes poking out of the ground around 2 weeks (give or take, depending on the weather and variety)
Any growing questions or your own potato tips, comment below!!