Potatoes (Salamun Tuberosum)

Following the conquest of the Inca civilization in 1532, the Spanish conquistadors not only took back to Spain all the precious metal they could find but also the more humble potato. Sir Walter Raleigh is credited with introducing the potato to the British Isles. Its use has since spread around the world, to the point where there are, on average, more than 190,000 square kilometers of potatoes under crop every year producing more than 323 million tones.

Potatoes came to Australia with the early European settlers but, it seems, may not have Figured in the First attempt at agriculture. In his dispatch of 15 May 1788, Governor Phillip does not mention potatoes as one of the crops proposed For sowing. However, in 1797 Governor Hunter was able to report that 11 acres (4.5 hectares) were under potato crop in the Parramatta district west of Sydney. Today, potato production occurs around Australia with the exception of the Far northern areas where temperatures exceed the optimal growing conditions.

Potatoes will be a wonderful addition to your garden as they grow quickly, are adaptable, high yielding, and responsive to low inputs. While not regarded as the healthiest of vegetables, if the right varieties are chosen and you prepare them appropriately they can be extremely useful for keeping your table well stocked. 

 There are many varieties available for you to choose from including:
- Coliban: White-fleshed but far better when home-grown than store bought.
- Sebago: Oval-shaped with white flesh and skin.
- King Edward: A large white potato.
- Pontiac: These are the main pink-skinned potato grown.
- Desiree: Originally Prom Holland, they are pink-skinned with a pale yellow flesh.

- Tasmanian Pink Eye: Pink-skinned with a creamy yellow flesh.
- Purple Congo and Sapphire: Both long, narrow potatoes with spectacular 
                                            purple skin and flesh. 

Your Healing Potatoes
Potato has developed a bad name in recent years because it has a high glycaemic index but in many ways it is the choice of potato you eat and how you eat it that is the thing. If you are going to eat a potato skinned and deep fried then of course it is not good  for you. However, cooked in its jacket with a little lemon juice over the top and avocado on the side, potatoes can be quite a good food.

The average potato has about 600mg of potassium which is around the same amount as a banana. It also contains more iron and vitamin C than half a cup of spinach. New research has also Pound that if you stress out a potato, then you significantly boost its antioxidant content. The research came from the American Chemical society and involved subjecting potatoes to two types of “stress”. The first was an ultrasound treatment wherein whole potatoes were immersed in water and then exposed to ultrasound For 5-10 minutes. The second stress was to soak the potatoes in salt solution and then expose them to a small electrical charge For 10, 20 and 30 minutes. The results showed that the stresses increased antioxidants in die potatoes by between 20 and 60 per cent The researchers say  that "stressing" potatoes in a more viable way could have application in making them a more Functional Food.
The thing For an organic gardener is that you don’t have to electrocute your potatoes to stress them out. Organic gardening methods are more “stress Full" For plants in the sense that they have to be more protective of  themselves as they are not blanket "protected" by synthetic Fertilizers and pesticides. Research has shown that this is why other plants grown organically develop more protective Flavonoids and there is no reason to think that potatoes will not be the same.
Purple potato Power
In a study, again From the American Chemical Society, 18 people who were overweight or obese and with high blood pressure were put on a regime that involved eating six to eight purple potatoes (each about the size of a golf ball) with skins twice daily for a month. The researchers monitored the subjects’ blood pressure, both systolic (the higher number in a blood pressure reading) and diastolic (the lower number). The average diastolic blood pressure dropped by 4.3 per cent and the systolic pressure decreased by 3.5 percent. This is especially significant since increases in diastolic pressure are even more worrying than systolic increases, although both are significant for health. The majority of people in the study took anti-hypertensive pharmaceutical drugs and still had a reduction in blood pressure. None of the study participants gained weight. 

The study was Funded by the United States Department of  Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) State Cooperative Potato Research Program, but that Fact does not invalidate the Findings. The researchers used purple potatoes because the purple pigment in Fruits and vegetables is especially rich in beneficial phytochemicals. According to the researchers, the results will probably also apply to pink and white potatoes, but given the reasoning behind choosing purple potatoes For the study, then that assumption may be optimistic For white potatoes.

So plant some pigmented potatoes, don't deep fry them, and you’ll have a nice addition to your meals ready and waiting.

Grow Your Potatoes
When to plant: Plant as soon as Frosts have passed in cooler climates, usually From spring to summer; and in autumn and winter in warmer, subtropical areas.

 Climate: Prefers mild, cool, temperate climate. Will grow in most
zones, except not as happily in the tropics.
Aspect/placement: Plant in a sunny, well-drained position: too much shade and they won’t produce tubers and too wet and the tubers could rot.

Specific needs: Potatoes like a loose loamy, Fairly acid soil and need phosphate, nitrogen and potassium to produce well. Be sure to prepare soil with well-rotted manure and blood and bone before planting. And remove weeds such as nightshade, which can harbour and attract pests such as aphids that spread viral diseases. Avoid planting where other solaniferous vegetables such as tomatoes or eggplants have previously grown because these could also harbour disease.
Buy certified, disease-free tubers and plant the seed about ?0-30cm apart and at least 10cm below the surface. The eyes of the potato are buds that develop into shoots. For better tuber numbers space further apart when planting so stolons can branch out.
Once the tubers start to form, cover or hill the crop to ensure the potatoes are well covered and don’t turn green. Keep them well watered. The tomato like fruit of the potato, which form after flowering, are the true seed and are inedible.

 Companion planting: Beans and peas.

Harvesting: Crops are usually ready to harvest at between 3-4 months depending on the variety. Start digging when tops or leaves die down (allow this to happen because nutrient from the tops Funnel into the tuber to help it grow) and the skin has firmed. It usually takes a good rainfall to firm the skins. Dig the crop, brush off any soil, and store in a cool, dark place.

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