Well, it’s been a month since I’ve returned from Africa. In that month, I got a new job, put on a five course farm-to-table dinner, went deer hunting, and cooked three Thanksgiving turkeys. However, I’ve also neglected this blog. So, today we remedy that by going back to basics with potatoes.
Potatoes are the fourth largest food crop in the world. I find this interesting because the potato is native to South America. So, it has only been since the European colonization of America that potatoes were introduced to the rest of the world. The quick spread of potatoes speaks to their ability to serve as a nutritious, filling, staple food.
Potatoes have gotten a bad rap in the low carb/glycemic index/paleo movement. I’ve heard people say that eating a potato is worse than drinking a soda.
I would say this. Potatoes are a whole food. And they have been eaten as a starchy staple by Native Americans for at least 10,000 years ( and probably much longer in their wild forms). Most cultures around the world eat starchy roots. The Hadzabe in Northwestern Tanzania eat starchy roots on a daily basis. They also eat huge amounts of honey which is pure carbohydrate. So, I wonder as our understanding of nutrition evolves if we will realize that it’s less about carbs, fats, and proteins and more about whole foods that have evolved for our consumption in nature instead of a lab.
At Stone Coop Farm, a diversified organic farm in southeastern Michigan, the farmers grow 10-15 varieties of potatoes. This may sound like a lot (and it is) but there are over 4,000 varieties of potatoes in the world to choose from. Each variety tastes a little different, looks a little different, and has a slightly different nutritional profile.
This year at Stone Coop Farm there were at least 20, 150 foot rows of potatoes planted. From these rows, over 3,000 pounds were harvested. The harvest method looks like this: 1. Load the truck with plastic crates 2. Drive out to the potato field. 3. One person drives the tractor down the row while another stands on the back to get the implement deep enough into the ground to dig up the potatoes. 4. Stop every 5-10 feet to pull weeds out of the implement. 5. Pick up all the potatoes in the plastic crates. 6. Return them to the truck. 7. Drive over to the hose. 8. Hose all the potatoes off. Pick out the bad ones. 9. Weigh the potatoes. 10. Store in the root cellar for 6-8 months.
It’s a lot of work. But man, fresh dug potatoes, they’re delicious. You’ve got to try them.
Here’s one of my favorite potato recipes. We served it at the Stone Coop Farm-To-Table on November 9th. Thanks to Troy Debruhl for the photo.
Caldo Verde (Creamy Portuguese Kale and Potato Soup)
2 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion
1 Parmesan rind
6-8 medium organic potatoes
4 cups homemade vegetable stock
2-3 cups of kale (cut into thin strips- chiffonade)
Optional: Fresh thyme, parsley, and sage (1-2 tablespoons of each)
1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Dice large onion and slowly cook it in a soup pot with two tablespoons butter and a sprinkling of salt over low. When the onion is soft and translucent, add chopped and peeled potatoes, Parmesan rind, and vegetable stock. Bring the stock to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until the potatoes are cooked through (about 20-30 minutes.) Then, add kale and herbs. Cook for another 5 minutes just until the kale is bright green. Remove the Parmesan rind and blend the soup in batches in a vitamix or use an immersion blender. Add cream and grated Parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring back to heat in a pan on the stove and enjoy with warm bread.