WELCOME TO THE HOT POTATO!
WHY IS THE POTATO SO HOT?
The truth is that at this moment in human history, the “potato” has never been hotter. With the now near-unanimous acknowledgment of global warming and its already devastating impacts on our planet, the startling revelations about the poisonous pesticides and other chemicals being dumped onto non-organic produce finding its way into our breastmilk and waterways alike, and unsafe genetically modified plant genes contaminating our bodies and farmers’ fields, the time to get educated about our health and the health of the Earth is well upon us. The potato is in the oven; the dinner bell has rung.
Many of us remain unaware of the things that are being put into our food, into our bodies, into the air we breathe, and into the earth, rivers, and oceans. We remain unaware or, once we are aware, we say, “Oh, but this doesn’t affect me. Why should I care?” The truth is, every choice that we are making in our lives right now is affecting not only our own health, but the health of all the life on this planet, and the health of our children, our children’s children, and ALL GENERATIONS TO COME.
It may sound simplistic to think that buying an organic potato free of toxic pesticides is changing the world, but just think: every dollar you spend is a vote toward the world that you want to see. This is more than just a potato: this is one vote, a thousand votes, toward a healthy, abundant future for ourselves and our children. And what we hope to get across is that changing the world is simple. We choose to take a path made up of many simple and courageous steps that culminate in one big paradigm shift. Whether the vote is cast with our money, our labor, or the little things we do with our free time, every vote counts. Every vote is like a stone cast into a pond, rippling outwards into infinity, changing currents across the vast ocean of human and planetary experience.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE POTATO
As for our humble yet nutritious friend the potato, if he could only talk, it’s certain he’d have a thing or two to tell us about human and plant-etary experience. So unassuming, and yet so omnipresent in today’s world, the first record of cultivation of potatoes comes from the indigenous peoples of Peru, who have gathered wild potatoes since before 6000 B.C.. Introduced into Europe in the 16th century from its home in the Andes Mountains, potatoes were first vilified as an “evil food” and “unhealthy”, probably due in part to the fact that the potato belongs to the same family as deadly nightshade and has similar poisonous properties when the tuber (potato) is exposed to sunlight for too long and turns green.
Today, the potato is one of the most widely grown and consumed vegetables, with nearly every country in the world taking part in its production. It’s no accident: within a small growing area, the potato contains large amounts of calories, protein, and lots of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C. Whole civilizations and countries have relied on the potato for sustenance, including the Incas and, more recently, the Irish. You can store them over the winter and through the spring, and they are relatively easy to grow: all you need to grow several potatoes is a piece of one potato with one or more “eyes” in it, through which the sprouts grow out. Of course, it helps to have good soil that is well aerated and, if possible, acidic, since that is the potato’s ideal breeding ground.
CULTIVATING A HOT KITCHEN
It also helps to have good “seed” potatoes to begin with. When it comes to ANY seed, and especially seed potatoes, buying organic is a must. Potatoes are one of the most heavily sprayed crops in terms of pesticides. This is because poor growing practices in depleted soil cause the plants to become stressed and weakened, making them susceptible to the Colorado potato beetle. Sadly, instead of changing the original cause of the problem, “conventional” aka chemical agriculture spends billions of dollars each year in energy, chemicals, and machinery fighting the symptoms. This results in potatoes that are only a semblance of what they should be and, worse, are full of chemical poisons that are being linked to higher incidences of cancer and degenerative diseases across the U.S and the world. Supporting organic potato growers also helps protect biodiversity and prevent widespread crop failures. This is because a diversity in potato varieties is less likely to be affected by a disease that can wipe out a whole variety of potatoes but not likely all varieties. This is why it pays to get your seed potatoes AND your table potatoes Certified Organic.
As for cooking, the versatility of the potato shines through. Though commonly consumed as french fries or fried potato chips in this country, there are probably a thousand ways you can prepare a potato that are far more healthful and interesting than these. One of the best ways is just to bake the potato whole in the oven, as this preserves much of the vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals. Steaming and baking are two of the most preferable methods for cooking; boiling and frying are not recommended, as these destroy much of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber content. Lightly sautéing is preferable to long, deep frying. Even better, you can turn those french fries into french bakes! Cut up potatoes into circles like chips or lengthwise into skinny fries, toss with your favorite oil like organic olive oil, add some spices like garlic, rosemary, or cayenne, and bake in the oven until lightly browned. Potato Tip: for crispier fries, you can broil instead of bake. We call these real freedom fries – freedom from heart disease-causing hydrogenated oils, pesticides, and fast-to-the-doctor food.
FRIENDS OF THE POTATO
Now that you know the potato a little bit more intimately, maybe you have decided that the two of you should be friends. If you are eager for more knowledge and want a specific topic addressed, have questions or feedback, or if you just want to say hello, we’re eager to hear from you. Contact us at the website below and we will try to answer any questions and/or address issues of curiosity in a future column.
Until next week, the Hot Potato is in your hands. Pass it on!
— Adam and Aireen recently completed a 32 week garden internship in 2006 at Wellspring, an organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm, bed & breakfast, hostel, retreat center, and nonprofit in the Milwaukee River Valley in Wisconsin. Seeing the need to learn beyond organic gardening, the two participated in a 3 day workshop in Willits, California to learn a method of sustainable gardening and mini-farming called Biointensive developed by Ecology Action and John Jeavons, author of How To Grow More Vegetables. Through WWOOF (Worldwide Workers On Organic Farms), Adam lived and worked for a month and a half in 2001 at a small bed & breakfast in southern France where he pulled weeds, helped restore a castle, and tended to sheep, rabbits, chickens, and a goat named Honey. Before realizing her love for gardening, Aireen worked at a garden center, flower shops, and in her mom’s beautiful garden. Adam attended the College of Santa Fe for one year where he studied Music & Creative Writing. Aireen received her B.F.A. in Studio Arts from Barat College in Lake Forest, Illinois. Together they have founded HOPE (Healing Ourselves For Peace On Earth) whose mission is a holistic approach to personal and planetary healing and harmony.
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