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Singing Gardener: Nutritional benefits of the potato and a little-known way of baking it

Plus, Ted shares more reader feedback

Something tells me this intro might appear a little longer than usual. It’s all for good informative reading. Got your sprouted seed potatoes in the ground yet? It’s not too late to plant more! There’ll be a thing or two said about spuds further along. Plus — one method for baking potatoes and some reader feedback.

Who are plant medicine specialists? They connect shape, design and texture of certain vegetables, fruit, flowers, herbs, leaves and root crops as potential healers to specific parts of the human body. Take for example a chunk of sliced carrot — those interior core circles might suggest the design of an eye. There’s no doubt that kidney beans hold a long reputation for nourishing the kidneys. If an expectant mother eats an avocado at least once weekly and drinks strawberry leaf tea, research indicates it helps balance her hormones and can contribute to an easier delivery. It takes an avocado nine months to grow to maturity. Coincidence? Who’s to know?

There’s also a similar trend in floral essences. Mandevilla flowers release an attachment to something that’s become a habit. Upon looking at the plant’s tendrils, notice how the floral vines wrap around and attach to anything in proximity. Euphrasia or eyebright flowers look a bit like eyes with long eyelashes and are known for being one of the best remedies for some eye conditions. Leaves on that old cottage perennial hollyhock are soft and fuzzy to the touch, indicating that they are good for soothing and healing when applied on the skin whether to scrapes, cuts or rashes.

As for the men in our Grainews readership audience, let the following be known, depending on your stature and weight. A walnut in the shell, or an avocado pit are about the same size as a man’s normal functioning prostate. So guys, besides your daily serving of tomatoes, add avocado and walnuts too. The interior meat of a walnut reminds us of a human brain. Nutrients in the edible portion of walnuts are said to help develop and maintain at least three dozen different neurotransmitters in the thought processes. I can’t pass up the opportunity to remind all of us that spuds — when baked, steamed or boiled rather than fried — contain compounds called kukoamines that lower high blood pressure. A reminder too that lycopene in tomatoes contributes to both prostate and breast health. Yes — there are many reasons to grow as much of our own fresh food in season as possible.

Periodically I still wear the same original Tilley hat that I purchased at least 25 years ago. Here’s the familiar caricature of that same hat tipped from the brim with its familiar welcome to all. Carry on with me right through to the closing tag.

Cerisa gourmet potato

I’m expanding on the goodness of potatoes in the diet beyond what was mentioned briefly during my opening. But first, let me tell you why I’m growing Cerisa this year and why you, the home potato gardener may want to do so also.

This is a favourite European variety and for good reason. Cerisa is a gourmet yellow-fleshed, red-skin, specialty-type potato with slightly firmer cooking texture and excellent flavour. Kind of makes it an ideal choice for potato salads, wouldn’t you say? Cerisa produces very high numbers of smaller elongated baby potatoes and grows well in gardens, raised beds and containers alike. Cerisa is a second early-maturing variety and has moderate resistance to common scab.

Shown are freshly harvested Cerisa gourmet potatoes. This European favourite has moderate resistance to common scab, grows and produces well in Canadian gardens, raised beds and containers.
photo: Courtesy Phil Bakker

Cerisa seed for planting is available at Peavey Mart, or shop online for Cerisa and other seed potato varieties such as Gemson, Goldeye, Little Giant, Jazzy, Rosemarie and Purple Magic at earthapples.com/shop/ or contact the following:

Phil Bakker
Director of Sales & Marketing
Ph. 780-996-0707
[email protected]
www.earthapples.com

A little-known baked potato method

Have you ever heard of Swedish baked potatoes? I have! The method involves slicing a raw potato into sections about one-quarter inch thin all the way across the top but not right through to the bottom so that each potato slice still holds together while baking.

Chris the Accordion Guy plays a lot of accordion music both locally and on tour. Each time the bellows on his Brandoni are just slightly ajar I think of the accordion as inspiring the design. I’ve acquired a preference for the style of preparation described and call it “Bellows Baked Potatoes.” Get the idea? The sky’s the limit for what you can put between the baked potato sections ranging from seasonings to toppings. By the way, for inquiries and bookings — Chris the Accordion Guy can be reached by phone at 204-871-4949. Chris will soon be in Saskatoon and vicinity playing accordion from mid-May to mid-July. Seniors to kids love the versatility of what he pumps out through the bellows of his 120 bass accordion.

Brief recap of some nutrients in spuds

When people think “potato,” they think of starch and carbohydrates. So says a plant geneticist. But actual research shows that potatoes can actually be packed with phenolic compounds which have a wide range of health-promoting properties, including antioxidant activity. The following are only a few details.

Vitamin B6 a.k.a. pyridoxine helps the body produce small molecules that facilitate communication between networks of nerve cells, as well as between your nerves and muscles. B6 also contributes to the synthesis of melatonin, a brain hormone that helps maintain your natural internal clock and sleep cycle. Potatoes are also a source of some vitamin C and our body requires it daily as it’s not stored. Vitamin C correlates with decreased risk of some types of cancer and high levels of this essential nutrient in the human system reduce the risk of stroke, according to the Linus Pauling Institute, so don’t neglect vitamin C.

Then there’s the essential mineral known as manganese whose function is to get enough enzymes to carry out chemical reactions required for survival. We often hear the expression, “eat a banana for potassium.” Well wouldn’t it be time to tell the world that potatoes also contain a significant amount of essential potassium that facilitates muscle contraction, supports function of the nervous system, aids in energy production and helps maintain your body’s fluid balance? Steamed new potatoes, which can be any type of small red potatoes in particular, are low in calories, high in fibre and play an important role in a balanced, healthy diet.

Grainews gardeners get the last word

From a thank-you card received — Mrs. Mary Ellen Pakka from Sorrento, B.C. writes: “We share a pasture (range) with our neighbours from May to October. The last two years we had to buy feed as we don’t have irrigation. My son raises Hereford cattle. White Lake was originally a Finnish settlement. Most of the first settlers are gone now. I live on the original homestead on a very small farm near Salmon Arm in the log house built in 1910 or so.” — Good to hear from you Mary. I, Ted had an Uncle Bill who once lived in Salmon Arm years ago. Not sure whether he’s buried there or not.

Joyce Nykipilo writes from Boyle, Alberta: “I would like to thank you for drawing my name and am excited to try these seeds. Keep up the wonderful and interesting news in your section of Grainews. I would like to know more about this tomato.” Here we go. Cosmonaut Volkov is an old Ukrainian heirloom tomato that was named in honour of a Russian cosmonaut who died while returning from a space mission.

Its fruiting capacity excites every tomato grower who’s planted it and is highly recommended. Medium- to large-size red fruits have a delicious, tangy flavour. Fruit production continues right through until a killing frost. Here’s a bonus too. Cosmonaut Volkov also produces well even under cool-weather growing conditions. This indeterminate variety requires staking and fruits begin to ripen between 65 to 70 days from transplant time out into the garden.

About the author

Columnist

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.

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