Edible Landscaping

Charlie Says… Eat Local Red and Purple Potatoes

Grow your own potatoes and eat them within a few months to get the highest levels of healthful antioxidants.

We all know the fresher the produce, the more healthful it is for you. The vitamin, mineral, and anti-oxidant content of produce is highest when you eat it as soon as possible after picking. But what about vegetables that are stored for the winter, such as potatoes?

I love growing and eating potatoes. I often will store our crop for up to six months in the basement and buy potatoes the rest of the year. Now I'm rethinking that based on research from Colorado State University. Researchers in Colorado looked at the effects of storage on antioxidant and anti-cancer properties in potatoes. Potatoes have antioxidant compounds that have been shown to be effective in preventing colon cancer. They were particularly interested in red and purple fleshed potato varieties, since these have the highest levels of antioxidants. In fact, one baked, purple potato is equivalent to eating three-and-a-half baked, white potatoes as far as anti-cancer properties are concerned. But the researchers wondered what happens in storage to these anti-cancer fighting properties?

They found the longer potatoes are stored the more the anti-cancer properties are suppressed. Since many commercial potatoes are stored up to twelve months before being sold, it's wise to grow your own or buy local varieties that you can eat within a few months. It may mean no fresh potatoes for part of the year, but I think eating vegetables seasonally is a smarter way to go anyway. Taking a break from a staple like potatoes for a few months may not be a bad thing and makes the excitement for the first new potato crop in early summer even more anticipated.

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