Irish White Potato – Solanum tuberosum

Red skin Potatoes
Red skin Potatoes

Here’s cucumbers spinnage and French beans

Come buy my nice sallery

Here’s parsnips and fine leeks

Come buy my potatoes too.

 

— c. 1700, an old English ballad

 

Baked, mashed, fried in strips, shreds, or slices, boiled, made into soup, au gratin, tater tots, and more. Potatoes are ohhhhh so delicious just about any way you want to make them. They have saved people’s lives during time of famine; they have delighted a small child as they make their own mushy piles; and they have been as simple as everyday fast food fare or as elegant as a 5-star restaurant can imagine! That is the spud, or tater, not always potato.

 

Many folks can recall that there was a devastating famine in Ireland; it was called the Potato Famine. Many folks I know thought for a long time that the famine was staved off by eating the potato, but in this instance in 1845-1852 it was due to the failure of the potato crop due to blight. The famine caused 1 million people in Ireland to die, and another 1 million to leave the country altogether! The people of Ireland had been forced off their grazing lands by the English onto smaller plots of stony land, not suitable to growing their cattle or grain crops any longer. They then resorted to growing the potato that had been imported from South America for survival. This worked well enough until the blight hit!

 

The potato, or rather the lack of the potato caused great starvation issues in Ireland and Scotland, but in poor third world countries the potato offers a cheap, tasty food source for the masses of people who would otherwise starve. In Africa when potatoes were introduced it took a long time for the farmers to agree to grow them, as they believed them poisonous! Indeed the potatoes that are green in the flesh or skin, and the green leaves and stems do contain an alkaloid named solanine, like most members of the Solanaceae family. If toxicity occurs the symptoms are nausea, vomiting, salivation, and drowsiness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, weakness, and respiratory depression.

 

Potatoes contain large amounts of starch so although they are wonderful to eat, they may be the wrong choice if you have Type II diabetes as the starch gives them a high glycemic index! But if you are not diabetic then they are a good choice as they are high in Vitamin A, B1, B2, C and K, they also have a good amount of minerals, such as potassium and are relatively low in calories!

 

As a folk remedy potatoes have their uses:

            Juice: used in the treatment of peptic ulcers

            Poultice: used to treat rheumatic joints, swellings, skin rashes, and hemorrhoids

            Plaster: (cold raw flesh) soothing to burns and scalds

            Skins: to treat swollen gums and heal burns (in India)

 

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