Solanum tuberosum

Herbs gallery - Potato

One vegetable that grows profusely through out the year and which has numerous categories is the humble potato. The white potato is inherently grown in the mountainous regions from Chile to Mexico in tropical America. Even though it is called "Irish" the white potato was known to only South Americans and was actually brought to Europe from South America after the Spanish Conquest. It was in fact Sir Francis Drake who actually introduced the potato to Ireland while Sir Walter Raleigh taught the English how to eat potato in beef gravy only as late as the 16th century. Colonial Virginia also got the potato through Sir Raleigh and it soon became part of the staple diet along with Indian corn in America. Today the potato is one of the most valuable vegetable crops grown all over the world.

Since it is a rich source of vitamin C, the potato is mainly responsible for wiping out scurvy from those nations that began to grow and eat potato. It is because of its effective treatment of scurvy, which occurs because of vitamin C deficiency, that the potato is classified as a protective vegetable.

Potato gives almost the same level of energy as bread but is lower in calories. It is a more balanced food especially in its content of potassium, iron, vitamins B1, C and its starchy consistency which puts less strain on the kidneys.

Cooking potatoes

Since potatoes are bland they can be used often for meals and besides they can be served in countless ways. Potatoes retain their goodness when cooked on low heat while being baked or in a vapor- sealed vessel while being other wise cooked. So be careful, for cooking can either build or destroy the benefits from potatoes.

Scrub the potatoes thoroughly with a brush if you plan to cook them so that all dirt is removed. For baking it is best to plunge them first into hot water, next rub them with oil so the skins do not harden while they are being baked in the oven. This process will ensure easy digestion also. Initially the potatoes should be baked on low heat and just when they are about to be done raise the heat to about 400�F so that the starch grains break down easily.

A typical baked dish can be served in this way. First cut the baked potatoes in half, scoop them out, mix in some nut butter, grated cheese or avocado. Garnish them with parsley or chives.

Potatoes can be eaten raw as salads. They can be made into juice and mixed with vegetables like beetroot and parsley to make a flavoured, rejuvenating drink that will immediately pump in all the vitamin C your body requires, besides other minerals and vitamins.

Retain the potato peelings, don't discard them because it is the peels that are mineral enriched. Almost 60% of the potassium that a potato contains is found just below the skin and most of it will be lost once the potato is peeled.

In addition, potassium is a salt, so if the peelings are retained you really don't need to add additional salt to the potatoes. The ideal would be to add more mineral broth powder, which is made from dehydrated vegetables, to enhance the seasoning instead of table salt. If sweetened butter is used instead of salted butter the taste will come through better and you will definitely enjoy the new improved mineral broth enriched potatoes.

Selecting the right kinds of potatoes for cooking is also essential. Make sure the potatoes you select are smooth, shallow eyed and with minimal blemishes. Extra large potatoes should be avoided as they could have a hollow and pithy center. Potatoes that are tainted green could have developed a bitter taste as they are sunburned, so pass them up as well.

Medical properties

Potatoes leave an alkaline residue in the body and have very little roughage. Potatoes are sometimes used in the treatment of acidosis. Catarrh can also be relieved with potatoes when taken as a soup or broth. Ensure that the potato peeling is cut half an inch thick and cooked very little. The broth made in this way will be full of important minerals.

Potato soup is effective in cases of uric acid and also helps in kidney and stomach disorders. It helps to replace minerals in the body. For making potato soup you need to peel six potatoes into three quarter inch thick wedges. Place the peeled potatoes in a covered utensil or kettle and simmer for about twenty minutes. Now add a bit of celery if you want it flavoured. Okra powder can be added if the stomach is irritated.

The potassium in the potato is extremely alkaline and that is why it keeps the liver activated, tissues remain elastic and muscles supple. This produces a graceful body and favourable temperament. Since potassium is what 'heals' the body, potatoes help to rejuvenate the body and are considered good for the heart. The potato can therefore be successfully used in cases of heart ailment.

An old remedy that is effective in removing congestions entails making a pack with sliced potatoes and applying it to the congested area. This will draw out all the toxins and any congestion in the veins. Hemorrhoids can be treated by placing a narrow thumb shaped potato piece in the affected region.

To cure diarrhea potato soup should be cooked with milk. Boiled milk has a constipating effect and this controls the condition. Potatoes provide bulk and so also help to control diarrhea.

Sweet potato

Believed commonly to be a tuber the sweet potato is actually a pure root. The subtropical and tropical countries have grown sweet potatoes for centuries. Columbus and his men were delighted with this "not unlike chestnut" taste when they were fed boiled sweet potatoes by the inhabitants of the West Indies. The new food travelled back with the men first to Spain and from there to the rest of Europe. De Soto discovered that the Red Indians were growing sweet potatoes in the same region that is now Louisiana.

Two kinds of sweet potatoes are known, one is the mealy type when cooked and the other called yam sometimes remains wet on cooking. The sweet potato is used in puddings when baked, steamed or roasted. It should be noted that before you mix it with other food keep in mind that the sweet potato is not as easy to digest as the white potato. If possible it is best to cook the sweet potato in its jacket as that helps to conserve nutrients. The skin is best peeled once the potato is cooked.

The sweet potato is good for the intestines and elimination of body waste. Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin A and niacin (vitamin B3).

Sweet potatoes are however easily decayed and the rot spreads quickly to the entire crop giving the potato an unsavoury flavour. The decay can be seen at the end of the roots as dark circular spots or a soft wet mould and sometimes as a dry, crumbly, withered and discolored hollowed out areas.