By Nina Andres of Capay Valley Farm Shop
One of the great gifts of seasonal eating is that we get to experience (and eat) a single plant in all its phases– including fresh out of the ground, early in the season! In your Capay Valley FarmShares case this week is the not-so-humble potato– but these may look different than you’re used to. New potatoes are harvested early in spring before their skins are hardened or “set”. They are more tender than older, cured potatoes and should be treated with care as they bruise easily. They also need to be refrigerated and cook much more quickly.
Fresh crops of Solanum tuberosum (aka the potato) are being harvested in the Capay Valley every day now. Potatoes are a member of the same plant family, Solanacea, as many of the summer crops growing in our fields — tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatillos.
The potato is thought to have originated in the Andean mountain region of South America, where native peoples have cultivated the plant for anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 years. European explorers brought them home in the 1500’s, and it was not until 200 years later that the potato was brought to the United States. Today it is thought to be the most popular vegetable consumed in America. Hopefully that is not just in French fries!
The approximately 100 varieties of potatoes vary in many ways, but all are well known for their nutrition content. According to www.potato.com, an average 5.3 oz potato contains approximately 45% of the daily value for vitamin C, 620 mg potassium (comparable to bananas, spinach, and broccoli), trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and zinc, 110 calories and no fat. Potatoes with the skin on are an excellent source of fiber (similar to that of whole-grain breads).
Cooked new potatoes, tuna fish, and salad greens dressed lightly with oil and vinegar make a great Salad Nicoise. Or toss steamed, diced potato with olive oil and fresh herbs of your choice. However you choose to prepare them, enjoy these fresh, tender vegetables while they’re here!