Potatoes are the least controversial food right? Whether you’re vegetarian or non-veg, chances are you eat potatoes. And what’s not to like about potatoes? No matter what culture you come from potatoes are part of the diet. Stay safe by consuming only organic potatoes. In Australia, 1kg of conventional potatoes costs AUD$3.49 and organic costs AUD$4.89. Only a small difference and well worth the extra cost.
If your budget does not allow you to go completely organic and you have to choose which fruits and vegetables you can skip on being organic, potatoes should NOT be one of them. Here are the reasons why:
- Potatoes are heavily bombarded with chemicals during the growing season, before harvest and even after harvest they are sprayed to stop them from sprouting so that they have a longer shelf life. A quote from Jeff Moyer, director at the Rodale Institute and former chair of the National Organic Standards Board:”I’ve talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals.”
- With some of these fruits and vegetables, a thorough wash with water and rubbing their skins and even after cooking would neutralize a lot of these chemicals but with potatoes washing and rubbing does not help. Some chemicals in them like maleic hydrazide, is absorbed into the potato. There’s at least one study that shows that the maleic hydrazide residues in potatoes after cooking don’t vary much with residues before cooking.
- the USDA discovered 81% of potatoes tested in 2006 contained pesticides even after being washed and peeled. The chemical that is found on 76% of all conventional potatoes is chlorpropham, a herbicide that is used to stop potatoes from sprouting. Not only is this chemical toxic to honey bees, but according to the Extension Toxicology Network, chronic exposure of laboratory animals to chlorpropham has caused “retarded growth, increased liver, kidney and spleen weights, congestion of the spleen and death.”
- Potatoes are a root vegetable so while they are in the soil they absorb much of the chemicals that penetrate and stay in the soil and having a thin layer of skin these chemicals are easily absorbed into the flesh unlike other fruits and vegetables where removing the skin helps reduce chemical consumption.
In my garden I have five 85 litre black, plastic pots lined up next to each other. In them I have planted potatoes. When I first planted them, I used certified seed potatoes because I wanted to ensure I have healthy potatoes and this practice also stops the spread of disease.
I do not fill these pots to the brim with soil. I put in just enough soil to cover the potatoes. Once they sprout and put out leaves I will add more soil. This process is called hilling. Potatoes need acidic soil to thrive and my horse manure provides enough of that.
Do I get a good yield from my organic potatoes? Not enough to meet the yearly needs of my family, but I still grow them because:
- It is fun to dig around in the soil looking for fully grown organic potatoes.
- Unlike my other plants I can’t see my produce growing. The high expectancy is as exciting as poking around in the soft soil not knowing what you could find
- It reminds me that of all the produce I work with in my kitchen, potatoes are the most important produce I must ensure remains organic at all times. Among all the fruits and vegetables, they are among the worst affected by pesticide so that even after washing you can’t minimise the damage from pesticide.
- They are no trouble to grow. I just harvest one pot after another as and when I am ready. Even if I go past the three-month period when they are ready to harvest, they still remain good in the soil. I have read articles that state that they will rot if they stay in the soil too long, but I have never found this happen to me and I have left them in their pots as long as up to eight months.
- Organic potatoes in Australia are easily available in the supermarkets and whole food stores in Australia. They cost only a little more than conventional potatoes.
- Don’t eat green potatoes and don’t eat their leaves. They are poisonous.
- Potatoes contain more potassium than bananas.
- Contrary to popular belief, potatoes are actually quite nutritious. It is the unhealthy preparation of potatoes for a meal that causes them to become less nutritious