Most of us have heard this whimsical foodie phrase: Never trust a skinny chef. My own personal caveat to that is – Never trust a person that does not eat potatoes! All kidding aside, who does not like some variation of this delicious, starchy goodness? Not to mention, the most versatile of all its veggie counterparts: mashed, boiled, smashed, baked (twice if you like), scalloped, sliced, riced, frenched, fried, whipped, julienned, drunken, ringed, smothered, covered – Hell, wrap it in tin foil, throw it into a blazing fire, and 30 mins later, Voila! Dinner Done!
It’s amazing that this rooty little dirt dweller has had such a bad rap for so long. It’s refreshing to see all of the latest health buzz about resistant starch and how beneficial boiled potatoes are for us. All this good news has inspired me to ramp up my potato consumption. This robust root vegetable – one that I previously avoided – has reclaimed my appreciation. It’s far past time that the nutritional benefits of the hearty potato get their dues.
“Not everyone can be a truffle. Most of us are potatoes. And a potato is a very good thing to be.”
~ Massimo Bottura – Never Trust A Skinny Italian Chef
So, go forth and partake in the yumminess! But before you do, there are some things to consider when choosing this dirt loving rooter:
BUD NIP, SPROUT NIP, SPUD NIC – OH MY!
Can you say Bud Nip? Until my son’s recent science fair project, I had never heard of Bud Nip. While researching how to sprout potatoes in a glass of water, we came across an important piece of information that recommended using only organic potatoes for successful sprouting. We soon discovered that Bud Nip, or rather Chlorpropham, is a spray that is applied to the outside of conventionally grown potatoes, once they’re harvested. The spray hinders spuds from sprouting, therefore lengthening the storage period. In 2016, test results by the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program found 41 different pesticide residues on a diverse sampling of 707 conventional potatoes. Chlorpropham was found on 98.6% of the potatoes tested, by far the most prevalent pesticide found. Major Ah-Ha moment; So that’s why organic potatoes seem to spoil quicker than regular, grocery store bin varieties!
Bud Nip, Sprout Nip, Spud Nic and a slew of other brand names have been used since the 60’s and became legal in the 80’s. However, it has come under fire in recent years for some of the following reasons:
- “Chronic exposure of laboratory animals to Chlorpropham has caused retarded growth, increased liver, kidney and spleen weights, congestion of the spleen, and death.”Chlorpropham may cross the placenta (1).
- The EPA lists it as a mild eye and skin irritant and as slightly toxic by the oral route.
- Regulations state that anything containing Chlorpropham has to be labeled “CAUTION.”
- Another study found the following; “Peeling removed 91-98% and washing removed 33-47% of Chlorpropham residue. Residues of Chlorpropham were detected in the boiled potatoes, in the boiling water, in the French-fried potatoes, and in the frying oil.”
Hmmm, sounds like Bud Nip might be something to avoid. Again, another reason to eat clean! USDA Organic standards forbid the use of Chlorpropham on organic potatoes, Hallelujah! So, this lesson is really simple: If you want to lessen your toxin intake, avoid conventional potatoes. And if you do eat conventionally grown, make sure they are peeled! If they are green or laden with sprouts, you might want to throw them away, which brings us to our next fun fact about potatoes.
So what’s wrong with sprouts growing on white potatoes? I previously thought this was a beautiful sign; growth, nature, a healthy potato. Well, not so fast, those sprouts indicate a presence of Glycoalkaloids. Glycoalkaloids, or more specifically, Solanine, is a toxic alkaloid that is naturally produced in mature white potatoes and is poisonous if consumed in high concentrations. An even larger indicator of Glycoalkaloids in a white potato is the presence of green skin or flesh. Although Solanine is present in other produce, white potatoes are the most common cause of Solanine poisoning in humans. Symptoms associated with Solanine poisoning include a bitter or burning sensation in the mouth, flu-like symptoms, and neurological issues. There have been several documented cases of Solanine poisoning caused by potatoes since the 1800’s; most victims became extremely ill with severe cases experiencing neurological effects, yet very few deaths were noted. However, there have been reports of livestock deaths.
Cooking potatoes does not significantly reduce the levels of Glycoalkaloids. According to Food Safety Watch, “peeling will remove between 60% – 95% of the Glycoalkaloids present. However, if the potatoes are very high in Glycoalkaloids, peeling will remove only up to 35%.” Also, if you happen to forget about those potatoes you stored in a cool dark place, be careful upon discovery because rotting potatoes can produce very harmful toxic fumes.
To minimize exposure to Glycoalkaloids and Chlorpropham in white potatoes, practice the following:
- Buy only organically grown.
- Wash AND peel the skin.
- Avoid potatoes that have a green tint to the skin or flesh.
- Remove damaged areas, sprouts, buds, flowers and the area around the eyes, or discard the potato.
- Do not eat if there is a bitter taste or burning sensation in the mouth.
- Store them in a cool dark place to slow down Glycoalkaloid formation, but don’t leave them there too long.
- Avoid reusing the boiled water or fry oil that cooked the potatoes.
IN THE U.S. OF A.
In the US, all conventionally grown white potato varieties are sprayed with Chlorpropham, however, sweet potato and yam varieties do not form Glycoalkaloids as they are from a different nightshade family. Potatoes are a wonderful source of nutrition provided we use a little prudence when choosing.
Until next time, eat clean and avoid the green! (Potatoes… only green potatoes.)
- Occupational Health Services, Inc. 1992 (Nov. 11). MSDS for Chlorpropham. OHS Inc., Secaucus, NJ.