French fries, mashed potatoes, hashbrowns – there are so many delicious dishes you can make from potatoes. The potato is a very versatile vegetable, one that you can cook for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is not surprising that Americans eat about 126 pounds of potatoes per person per year and that it is the number one crop in the US! To honor this American favorite, we will talk about the benefits of the spud, and how to plant, harvest and preserve it!
Benefits of Eating Potatoes
Potatoes are a great low-calorie option; a medium-sized spud has about 110 calories. Potatoes have the following nutrients:
- Pantothenic acid – Also known as Vitamin B5, it is necessary to metabolize proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
- Niacin – Also known as Vitamin B3, it helps to lower cardiovascular risks and cholesterol.
- Phosphorus – A mineral that helps to form bones and teeth, and helps the body make proteins needed for tissues and cells.
- Manganese – A dietary mineral that helps with bone formation, keeps the skin looking healthy by helping to make collagen, controls blood sugar levels and acts as an antioxidant.
- Vitamin C – A vitamin that is an antioxidant and boosts your immune system, as well as protecting from cancer, the common cold and cataracts.
- Vitamin B6 – Six compounds make up Vitamin B6, whose main role is to metabolize proteins in the body.
Although most people plant potatoes in the spring and harvest them in July, it is also possible to plant potatoes in the fall. Purchasing certified potato seeds may be difficult in September, so if you can’t find them, buy organic potatoes from the grocery store. Help the spuds sprout eyes by leaving them outside in the sunshine, preferably around 70 degrees. Once the eyes have sprouted, dig 10×30-inch trenches in the ground and fill them with 4 to 6-inches of dead leaves, such as oak leaves as well as compost.
Come October, you can start planting the spuds eyes up before frost ensues. Place the seeds a foot apart and place 6-inches of soil on top, and an additional 6-inches of mulch, sawdust or dead leaves.
The mulch will start to decay with the snow and rain, which will generate heat and help the roots of the potatoes to grow. When the weather starts to warm up, potato plant leaves will start shooting out from the ground. Areas of the country that don’t get severe frost will be able to harvest potatoes in early spring.
To help grow healthier and more abundant spuds, add PlantCatalyst® when planting the seeds or potatoes. This agricultural product will help you cut your fertilizer use (should you choose to add it) by up to 50 percent, and will help your potato plants to grow earlier in the season and more abundant! PlantCatalyst® is made with all natural ingredients that contain no harmful toxins, unlike most commercial gardening products. This proven formula has been tested and tried by many professional growers around the world – try it for yourself this gardening season!
A few weeks before harvesting, cut back on the amount of water you use on the crops to help the potato skins become tougher. To harvest potatoes, dig them up gently without damaging the tubers. When the vines become brown and die, that means the spuds are ready, so make sure to dig them up right away to prevent rotting.
Clean potatoes to remove any soil, and cure them for 10 days, which involves leaving them in temperatures of around 65 degrees and humidity up to 95 percent, which toughens up the skin even more. Then, store them in a dry, dark and cool place, such as a basement in around 35 to 45 degrees.
Don’t wash them until you need to use them, and keep them away from apples and other fruit, which release methane gas and will cause them to rot sooner. Potatoes will last up to eight months in temperatures below 40 degrees, and around four months in higher temperatures.
What are you favorite potato recipes? Share them with us on social media!