This Spud’s For You
By Chelsea Fisher
As deep-fried snacking chips and fries, potatoes are omnipresent, and in terms of health, ominous. But used well, the lowly spud can be an essential part of a healthy regimen for cancer patients as well as the whole family.
High in vitamin C and B vitamins, potatoes in their many varieties also contain fiber, potassium, and some protein. There are many different kinds of potatoes, ranging from starchy to waxy, and they each play a unique role in recipes. According to the American Cancer Society, because potatoes are gentle on the digestive tract and are good sources of potassium, they are a smart option if you are dealing with intestinal upset or diarrhea from chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
Here is our list of top taters:
- Russet and Idaho: These classic floury potatoes are great for baking and mashing. Because russets are starchy, they can be used to thicken soups like our Vegetarian Borscht. If you are feeling unwell and need a gentle yet hearty comfort food, try our Potato and Rosemary Risotto. Russets are often baked and topped with sour cream, butter, and bacon bits. But for a healthier variation, top them with vegetables and a dollop of thick Greek yogurt.
- Fingerling: These spuds get their name from their small, thin, and knobby appearance. They also range in color and consistency and should not be confused with baby potatoes. Because of their size, fingerlings are great simply tossed in a little oil, baked, and used as a side to many meals.
- Yukon Gold or gold: These are waxier than a russets, but still become quite starchy when cooked. They are extremely versatile and can be mashed or cubed and used in hearty dishes like in our delicious Potato and Pepper Stew. They also make our Bubble and Squeak-ish dish the perfect consistency.
- New or baby: These tiny tubers come in all colors and are great with their skins on and left whole or diced. They will hold their shape, and have a soft, waxy consistency after baking. Use halved small potatoes in our Chicken Pot Au Feu in place of rice. Or, toss them in a little olive oil and rosemary and eat them alongside poached eggs in the morning.
- Red: These are very waxy and are best used in recipes that require potatoes to hold their shape. They’re great cooked in their skin, so no need to peel them unless the recipe calls for it.
- Purple: Their gorgeous color makes this variety both stunning and appetizing. They are usually only available at specialty and farmers’ markets, so grab them whenever you see them. According to a study from the University of Scranton, these purple pals have high levels of antioxidants and can help lower blood pressure. They’re great mashed or used in soups.
- Sweet: When candy is not so dandy, these tasty treats are not only sweet, but are lower in simple carbs than other potatoes. For everything you need to know about them, see our article “Sweet Potatoes: How Sweet They Are.”
- Heirloom: Usually only available at farmers’ markets, they’re called heirloom because though they may have been around for a long time, they’re not widely cultivated. That heirlooms are not common doesn’t mean they aren’t delicious. If you stumble upon an heirloom, ask the grower what they taste like (not always an easy question to answer) and in what recipes they work best.
Although potatoes have very different textures when cooked, they all have to have the same attributes when you buy them. Look for potatoes that are firm to the touch and have unblemished skins. They’re tubers, after all, so they can be a little gnarly, but shouldn’t have black spots or obvious breaks in the skin. Avoid any potatoes that have started sprouting ‘eyes’; this means they are well past their “cook by” date. If you have potatoes at home that have developed a greenish tinge under the skin, throw them out. A green potato is actually quite toxic. Store all potatoes in a cool dark place so that they keep longer, but don’t store them in the fridge, which also can cause them to turn green. Don’t forget, the fiber in potatoes is in the skin. We should all be eating more fiber so it’s a good idea to leave it on unless you have having issues with diarrhea, or have been told to follow a low fiber diet.
We use potatoes in a lot of our CFYL recipes. One of our favorites is our Celeriac and Potato Gratin, as is our Leek and Potato Soup. Always try to use the potatoes we suggest. You simply won’t get the same results if you substitute a waxy potato when the recipe calls for a floury one. Potato skins are the most nutrient dense part of potatoes, so if you plan on mashing or baking them, for the healthiest eating and added texture try to buy organic and leave the skin on.