NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
April 9, 1998
The potatoes we've come to enjoy served in a variety of ways and featured in probably thousands of recipes originated in South Americain the Andes Mountains to be precise. From there, Spanish conquerors introduced potatoes to Europe, and today most of us with European ancestral ties probably eat our lefse or dumplings or latkes or stews or Shepard's pie without giving much thought to the past. But some of our forebears apparently struggled to acquire their taste for spuds, according to some interesting trivia I found on the Idaho Potato Expo's Web site.
For instance, the Scots initially refused to eat potatoes because tubers weren't specifically mentioned in the Bible. Others blamed potatoes for causing all sorts of diseases, such as leprosy and rickets.
Enter Marie Antoinette, who is supposed to have paraded through the French countryside wearing potato blossoms in her hair, and after that the popularity of potatoes began to pick up. I'm guessing all this might have happened about the same time this compassionate queen was wondering why the hungry peasants couldn't eat cake. Maybe if she would have provided them a recipe for a potato cake, they could have.
On the other hand, some inventive Irish cooks actually might have baked cakes containing potatoes. The Irish peasants of the mid-1800s probably had to invent a lot of ways to eat potatoes. How else could every man, woman and child down about eight pounds of spuds a day? That's righteight pounds a day. When the potato famine hit Ireland, more than a million people starved. The same disease (late blight) that plagued the Irish peasants still threatens to eat into the profits of potato farmers in this region.
Speaking of this region, did you know that North Dakota State University has released 18 potato varieties since the late 1950s? The most well-known cultivars are "Norchip," "Red Norland" and "Russet Norkotah."
Here's another tidbit about the power of potatoes. It seems many historians refer to a two-year conflict between Prussia and Hungary as "The Potato War." Why? Because Prussian and Hungarian soldiers supposedly spent more time stealing each other's potatoes than they did fighting. The war ended, by mutual consent it's reported, when the potatoes ran out.
If all these informational nuggets have made you hungry, the following recipe should have you satisfied in no time at all.
In-a-Jiffy Potato Soup
Yield: 4 hearty servings
1 14½-ounce can fat-free chicken broth
3 cups cubed, peeled potatoes
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup each thinly sliced celery and carrots
1 cup diced lean ham
2 tablespoons dried dill weed
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups fat-free (skim) milk, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup low-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped chives (optional)
1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
In a medium-sized saucepan, combine broth, potatoes, onions, celery, carrots, ham, dill weed, and salt and pepper; bring to a boil slowly using medium heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add 1 3/4 cups milk. Combine flour with remaining 1/4 cup milk and stir to form a smooth paste; add to soup and bring to a boil, stirring constantly for several minutes. Reduce heat. Add a small amount of the hot soup liquid to the sour cream and mix well; gradually incorporate sour cream into soup, stirring constantly. Make sure soup is heated through, but do not boil after adding sour cream (boiling causes sour cream to break down). To serve, divide among four bowls and garnish with parsley, chives and paprika, if desired.
What's Your Take on This, Julie?
Spuds have had an unfair image of being "fattening." Fad diets have consistently proclaimed the evils of potatoes, breads and other starchy foods. Potatoes remain models of current recommendations for healthy eating. They're high in complex carbohydrates and virtually fat-free, unless you load them with added butter, margarine, cheese and regular sour cream. Or if you choose to eat them as French fries.
Potatoes are "nutrient-dense"meaning they provide a good nutritional return for the calories. At about 150 calories for a 5-ounce serving, they're a nutritional bargain. Potatoes are good sources of potassium and vitamin C. If you eat the skin, they also are an excellent source of fiber.
For a quick lunch or dinner, microwave a potato for about five minutes and top with chili or steamed vegetables or pizza sauce with a sprinkle of low-fat mozzarella. Go easy on high-fat toppings . Try lower-fat versions such as plain yogurt or mock sour cream, consisting of whipped cottage cheese and lemon juice.
If you're eating on the run, remember a small order of fast food fries typically contains about 220 calories and 12 grams of fat, equal to eating 3 teaspoons of oil along with about half a potato. Enjoy your fries, but consider them as an occasional treat rather than your daily vegetable source.
Remember to store raw potatoes in a cool dark place, but not in the refrigerator. If raw potatoes are held at cold temperatures, they become sweet in flavor due to conversion of starch to sugar and could turn brown or black during cooking. If exposed to light, they may turn green due to "solanin" compounds in potatoes. The bitter green part should be pared off before the potato is used.
A "hungry-size" serving of "In-a-Jiffy Potato Soup" (one-fourth of the recipe or about 2½ cups) provides about 300 calories and 5 grams of fat when made with lean ham. If you're watching your calories, try a smaller serving. A serving also provides a full day's supply of vitamin A, as beta carotene from the carrots, 70 percent of the recommended vitamin C and 20 percent of the recommended daily iron.
This soup recipe is tasty and nutritious, can be made in about a half hour, and might even appeal to picky eaters in your family, young or old. Even my 2-year-old son held up his empty bowl and asked for "more `tato' soup, please."
Sources: Dean Hulse (701) 231-6136
Julie Garden-Robinson (701) 231-7187
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