Potatoes don’t always get the credit they deserve. These humble tubers pack more nutrition than you might realize in a small, unassuming package, and their low-maintenance nature means that you don’t need a green thumb to grow a bumper crop.
The spuds you buy at the supermarket, however, can also come packed with pesticides and fungicides, and come in very limited varieties.
Growing your own potato plant is a cinch, gives you the freedom to choose your own varieties–even blue!–and gives you peace of mind from serving your family fresh produce that isn’t full of chemicals.
Read on to discover 6 reasons you should make the potato a star in your spring lineup this year!
1. They’re Easy to Grow
Potatoes are a low-fuss crop that make an easy project even for beginning gardeners. The most common way to grow them is to simply till the soil to break up clumps, dig shallow trenches (see photo above), plant seedlings, and then add small hills of soil on top of them once the plants have grown to 8 to 12 inches tall.
This “hilling” will keep too much sunlight from reaching the crop and turning them green and bitter–the same reason we store them in a dark place.
You aren’t limited to the traditional, though. There are many ways to grow the famous potato, and some methods are better than others for small spaces, wet areas, and other special needs.
As long as you make sure your potato plants have a consistent water supply and stay free of pests and weeds, you can expect an average harvest of 3 to 5 pounds per plant.
It’s best to plant your potato plant in the spring when the weather is still cool but the soil temperature is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The earliest you should plant them is 2 weeks before the last expected freeze date for your area.
2. Organic is Better
While some foods in the produce isle, such as bananas, are pretty low on pesticides, chances are that the potatoes you buy at the supermarket contain a high level of chemicals. Because they are grown in shallow trenches, growers coat them with pesticides and fungicides to protect their harvests, and these chemicals are passed on to you.
This is why potatoes regularly make the lists of foods that are best to buy organic. While scrubbing and peeling potatoes will reduce your exposure, some of the chemicals are absorbed through the skin and into the potato itself.
Of course, removing the skin also robs the potatoes of most of their fiber content. Instead, experts recommend buying your potatoes organic.
Of course, organic produce costs more. Buying organically grown seed potatoes and growing them in your own garden will save you money, reduce your family’s pesticide exposure, and give you lots of fresh, delicious homegrown spuds!
3. More Varieties = More Fun!
Your local supermarket probably has a few varieties of potatoes, such as russet, golden, new potatoes, and maybe even red potatoes. But did you know that they come in countless flavors, textures and colors?
Organic potato growers offer you new choices such as rich German Butterball potatoes, French fingerlings or Purple Majesty. Who could resist?
New potato varieties are a wonderful way to liven up old recipes, and the kids are sure to get a kick out of blue mashed potatoes. Just because you’re the world’s top non-grain crop, doesn’t mean that you have to be predictable!
4. They’re Fresh and Versatile
Potatoes have certainly earned their status as a major staple food. They are second only to eggs in their versatility for cooking; you could eat them every day for weeks without repeating the same recipe.
Fresh potatoes from your garden will make it extra-fun to try new ways to eat our favorite tuber, from scrumptious Hasselback potatoes (see photo above) to these 10 yummy potato recipes, including loaded baked potato bits and bacon-wrapped potato bites. Bon appétit!
5. Nutritious? Yes!
Potatoes have a reputation as comfort food, but these tubers actually pack a nutritional punch. Potatoes are good sources of vitamins C, B3 and B6, fiber (with skins), and potassium, as well as important minerals such as phosphorus and manganese. Who knew?
6. Involve the Kids in the Garden!
Gardening is a wonderful way to encourage your children or grandchildren to spend time outside and technology-free, and to help them learn about nature. Better yet, scientific studies, including one published in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association, show that kids who are involved with growing vegetables are more likely to eat vegetables.
Getting your kids started gardening is a win-win, and low-maintenance potatoes are the perfect crop to start their grow list! For proof, check out the little cutie watering the potato plants in the photo above.
Add potatoes to your garden this spring, and enjoy a delicious harvest!