Radical Roots of Dry-Farmed Potatoes

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Here lies Jethro Tull. Born 1647; died 1741. His epitaph reads,  “His methods of soil tillage lie at the foundation of the  modern system of dry-farming, where little or no water is used for  irrigation.” A fleet-of-foot Ian Anderson may come to mind as  you air guitar the first dark cords of “Aqualung.” But  it is the namesake of Jethro Tull that has to do with the lovely  Carola Potatoes featured in our TakeHome case.  These sunny yellow  potatoes were grown by David Little on his organic farm near Tomales  Bay using dry farming practices.

Dry farming isn't just a matter of never watering the crops, there's a  lot of farming skill involved. Farmer Little calls it an art. Jethro  Tull got his revolutionary farming ideas when he observed plowing  techniques in French vineyards, where soil was heaped in rows to  conserve moisture. The enlightened farmers of Marin County have turned  water scarcity woes into lemonade by returning to dry farming. Little  notes the practice is nothing new in semi-arid California. “It  was nothing I invented; it is indigenous to the coastal  region.” By growing a wide variety of sumptuous heirloom  varieties such as winter squash, cucumbers and corn, farmers like  Little have had sellouts of their dry-farmed crops. The fog from the  Pacific coast is their secret ingredient.

The Carola Potatoes are of German heritage, but have been a successful  transplant to Tomales Bay. “They are a rare combination of  slightly dry, yet moist. Kind of fluffy moist,” Says Little.

“It’s the best masher, but I like it baked  too.” The Carola has thin skin, which is edible too. Since it  is organically grown, just give the skin a good scrub, and enjoy its  concentrated nutrients and dietary fiber.

Potatoes are very high in nutrition. They are rich in carbohydrates,  19g per 1/2 cup, but those are complex carbs. (The simple carbs  in processed food are the ones to avoid.) Some research suggests that  complex carbohydrates may be helpful in improving overall mood levels  and in promoting good sleep. Complex carbohydrates tend to raise  tryptophan levels in the body. Tryptophan directly stimulates the  production of serotonin. That's some of the wisdom purported in  guidebooks like Potatoes not Prozac by Kathleen DesMaisons, a book  about managing sugar intake. Potatoes also rank high on the Satiety  Index, but you likely don’t need a number to remind you that a  nicely prepared dish of organic potatoes is wholly satisfying.

 

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