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.