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The Insipid Potato

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Yesterday I purchased a couple of nice looking, firm, Oregon russet potatoes. and baked them as I usually do. These were conventional potatoes, not the organic "free range" 'taters I generally purchase. I've not had a conventional potato in many years.

These potatoes were terrible - almost tasteless, and certainly not as flavorful as any of the organic russets I can remember. I have a theory about this. I read somewhere that the fields used to grow conventional potatoes are sterilized, which means that many organisms found in the soil naturally are no longer active. Organicly grown potatoes aren't grown in such soil, and therefore have the benefit of these organisms, and end up tasting better.

Do4s anyone have any more information on how conventional potatoes are grown, especially in Oregon and Idaho?

Regardless, I'll never buy another conventionally grown russet potato again, especially from Oregpon or Idaho.

shel
post #2 of 16
lololol.......free range potato???!!!!!! oh Shel, that is too fun.

don't have an answer but your suspicions seem right......and conventional russets are fairly inspid, unless you don't mind having a bland non-potato flavored potato. Doctored they are just a conduit to your mouth for whatever they were doctored with.......:p
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post #3 of 16
Hi shel, I know a little about how potatoes are grown, commercial and organic.

I don't know specifically about Idaho, but similarly in Canada there is a potato region on Prince Edward Island, where like Idaho they are known as the potato capital, and potatoes have been grown there for many years.

Much of the soil has become depleted and in poor condition over many years of growing potatoes, which are heavy feeders. To just supply chemical fertilizers and then spray pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, when you look at that soil, it just looks dead. Try to find an earthworm, not bloody likely.;) Soil erosion due to cultivation methods is also an issue, as is growing a "monoculture" where potatoes only are grown again and again and for miles.

Now I never blame the farmer, in PEI, many of them are indentured in my opinion, working under contract for giant food corporations to produce terribly cheap potatoes for the frozen french fry manufacturers. So the market economy at work wants to do things to have the cheapest cost, the most profit, the public generally doesn't notice the poor quality, especially when you add the grease and salt.

Now I'm not pinko or anything:blush:, but it's interesting in contrast when you go to Cuba. The whole island has been converted to organic. :p

So to farm large quantities of potatoes industrially.... you want all the plants to die off at the same time. (When you want to harvest potatoes for storage, the skins only firm up a couple weeks after the tops die off, so that's when you want to harvest them to have a good tough skin to store well). Old school small scale organic growing would have waited for the plant tops to die, dug that up accordingly.

Enter Monsanto... why not spray all your potato green tops with Round-Up, then they can all be killed at the same time, you can know the date, and go from there as to when you want to harvest. Potatoes were #3 on a list of the worst contaminated crops in terms of chemicals. They regularly are in those "dirty dozen" lists, of the most contaminated vegetables. Roundup BTW kills by being absorbed through the leaves then going down the to roots in my understanding, to kill the roots to kill the plant. Extra bonus: inhibits sprouting, if potatoes are fully dead they won't sprout at all.

Anyhoo, I'm fortunate that my husband grows amazing potatoes in his organic garden. He's got varieties that he's collected from various places, some red on the inside, blue, purple, yellow, black truffle, long skinny buttery fingerlings, etc...:lips: They grow very easily, although he does add some "amendments", things like compost, a little kelp and organic minerals. He puts a little pine needle with them (or pine shavings) to prevent scab, a fungus that can be warded off by acidifying the soil a little instead of needing a fungicide.

The taste is night and day.:chef:

The organisms you're talking about are part of a healthy soil, the organisms contribute to breaking down things to make nutrients available. A plant with good organic nutrition (rather than just chemical N-P-K fertilizer) is better able to resists pests, disease, and produces tastier food IMO.

For commercial mass market potatoes, you might try the Yukon Gold, and see if you like those any better.:cool:
post #4 of 16
I grow a few potato plants right in my compost pile, they look great and we eventually get a few dinners worth of them.

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www.foodandphoto.com

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

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post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
Hi stir it up,

pretty much everything you've said is what I understood, including the part about "imdentured" potato growers. Thanks for confirming what I thought I knew.

I have noticed the difference in skin thickness between some organic russets and the conventional ones I had, as well as some of the organic potatoes. I suspect a lot of the organice 'taters, while grown in better soil, are produced using more "industrial" methods, but I also know that there are many, many varieties of russets, so that may play a role in skin thickness and texture.

I love Yukon Gold, and many of the other potato varieties that are available.

No, I won't be buying commercial, mass market potatoes again - the recent purchase was a matter of convenience, as the store was out of organics and I just didn't want to drive a few more miles just to pick up two potatoes, so, reluctantly, I grabbed the regulat 'taters. Never again - NEVER!! I'll do without rather than eat that junk.

'shroom - you echoed my feelings pretty accurately. Commercial potatoes, rusets anyway, have always seemed more a vehicle for transfering amendments. Y'know, when I eat a well grown organic potato, I often add very little to it - sometimes only fresh lemon juice and some green onions or chives, and will often have another veggie on the side, although sometimes I'll mix 'em in.


foodnphoto - growing spuds in the compost pile sounds cool, reminiscent of the French intensive method of gardening.

Well, thanks for all the info ....

shel
post #6 of 16
I too would love to see a free range potato - roaming at will through the undergrowth -nibbling to its heart's content - sipping from a clear and burbling mountain stream.

Hehe I jest - but 'shroom that painted a very vivid picture in my mind. A very happy potato who'd had a good life before it was killed humanely...oh heck I'll stop.

Very valid points about depleted soils and no taste in the taters - its hardly surprising when you get down to those basics. Reminds me of another thread in some respects where some opinions were held about not liking to be eating something too closely involved in its growth/production with manure as a primary fertiliser or component in the animals diet, e.g fish (forget which type it was - tipalia? (sp)).

Natural organics add good flavour - chemicals don't.

Organics are a gotta have sometimes - when your budget allows. Always a consideration for a lot of people.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
Around here (Berkeley, CA) organic produce is priced similarly to the non-organic in many markets. One produce store has organic broccoli florets for 50-cents per pound less than their regular florets. Depending on where one shops, conventional produce can be more expensive than the organic. Some items at the farmers market are far less expensive than similar items in the conventional or organic markets.

Picking up a cue from another thread, Amy's organic canned soup is less expensive than Progresso and Campbells in some places, and comparable in others.

The idea that organic is more expensive than conventional is a generalization painted with a pretty broad brush - at least around these parts. However, if one shops indiscriminately, it's easy to reach that conclusion.

shel
post #8 of 16

organic food

is still quite expensive here too,

our regular potatoes are genereally good, still grown to oldfashioned ways.
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when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

www.theunknownchef.com
www.theunknownchef.co.nz
www.shoebridge.co.nz
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post #9 of 16
Tessa,
I think we antipodeans are running way behind in the organic produce stakes here compared to other countries, but yes, most things here are just planted in a very basic manner without the mass production techniques necessary in more highly populated countries.

Shel,
Organic here is roughly twice the price of "normal" produce. Most cannot afford it. We got some catching up to do. Say a dozen eggs - cage laid $3.50, free range $6.50. If you are on a budget and consciencious about the conditions of cage birds, you'd probably do without here. As for veg., for example 1kg carrots, organic about $3, normal about $1.20. Its pretty much the same along the whole range of organic produce.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Cheers,
DC
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
we're pretty lucky here, but you still have to know where to shop. yesterday, for example, i saw org broccoli for $3.69/lb, and a mile away, in another store, it was 89-cents a pound. i'm sure prices will adjust, although it may be a while.

shel
post #11 of 16
It's amazing how one store can charge that much more. Prices will come down one day here - until then I'll grow what I can myself, although that's fairly limited. We're usually about 10-15 years behind the rest of the world in a lot of respects (sometimes that's a good thing) - organic will take on and be competetive eventually.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #12 of 16
DC, one thing to underestand is Shel's location.

There are a couple of places in the U.S., San Fancisco being one of them, where, if you drew a hundred mile circle, you'd find all sorts of small, diverse, farmers and artisan food producers. Many of them are truly organic (I'll explain that in a moment). And, because there are so many of them, competitive forces come into play.

In a sense, Shel has been spoiled.

Most of the rest of the country has a similar break as you do. That is, "organics" carry a significantly higher pricetag (often twice as high) as conventionally grown.

Now, as to that "truly organic." When the word "organic" is used, people have an image of small, diverse farmers who see themselves as stewards of the land. They recognize that to grow good plants you need to grow good soil first. And they tend to choose varieties for their taste value. Their produce costs more to grow, so they should get a premium price for it.

In the U.S., fewer and fewer of these people are certified as organic growers, because the costs of certification---in both time and money---aren't worth the bother. The rules for certification were, for all intents and purposes, written by Monsanto.

However, most of the "organic" produce seen in markets in the U.S. does not come from those people. Instead it is supplied by the organic divisions of huge, factory farms who, while keeping to the letter of the law, use the same kinds of approaches as with their conventional divisions. That is, monoculture (which is never good for the soil, long term), varieties selected to meet the needs of the food distribution system, harvesting when unripe, etc.

Because they are not using synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, etc., it actually costs them less to produce these crops than their conventional veggies. So the fact these organics carry a higher pricetag reflects only greed, as they take advantage of a trend.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 
KY is pretty much on the money with his comments. We have many small growers here who sell incredible products - be they dairy, meat, poultry, produce. Many are truly organic, in the sense that KY describes, but are not "certified" as such because of the time and cost involved. For example, there's an olive oil I often use that is "more" organic than many of the certified USDA organic oils, but the oil has not beeb certified organic, and doesn't carry the USDA seal. Many products carry the USDA seal, but are not 100% organic, although most people don't know that. Only if a product says it's 100% organic might it be 100% organic.

The laws here were, essentially, written by the major corporations. However, because we have such good stewards of the land in many of these small farmers and producers, we can actually get better products than USDA organic even though the products aren't certified as organic. Strange, isn't it.

Now, there are some small producers of meat, poultry, eggs, and to a lesser extent, dairy, who, because of the nature and demand for their products, charge a lot more - some egg producers are charging as much as $6.00 or so for a dozen eggs. And before you dismiss this as highway robbery, bear in mind that commercial organic eggs can cost more than $3.00/dozen here. The difference in taste is like night and day, and the process of producing these higher quality eggs is substantially different. The chickens are fully pastured, really are free range and cage free, and eat a varied diet of wild and natural food as well as whatever grains the producer uses to supplement that diet. These are truly "old fashioned" eggs. And while the production of similar quality chicken is limited (it's growing), and therefore expensive, their taste is also incredible, and the birds are a lot happier and far more humanely raised.

For a while the only people who could get these eggs and chickens were certain restaurateurs, like Alice Waters at Chez Panisse,but with the infusion of cash from Alice and others, production has increased and cost and availability to the consumer have dropped and increased respectively.

http://www.edibleeastbay.com/pages/a...iveMeAHome.pdf

Some of the great produce farms here are small - 10, 20, 30 acres. Compare that to 30,000 acres farmed by Earthbound farms, a big commercial organic produce oiperation. Rarely will I eat Earthbound's mediocre organic produce, much preferring these small producers, who, surprisingly, often sell for the same or lower prices than the big operations who have the power of scale on their side.

There are also some markets that overcharge on their "organic" produce, which is why the farmers markets can sometimes be such a good deal. Heads of very fresh lettuce at 3 for $2,50 are a much better deal than supermarket organics - fresher, cheapper, and healthier.

We have a lot of farmers markets here. The list below is only for the East Bay, doen't include San Francisco and the northern and southern counties that ring the bay. The large number of markets assure the small producers of a good number of outlets for their produce - truly "direct from farm to the consumer." A lot of produce is picked the day it is sold, although most, by neccessity, is picked the day before. Still, a lot fresher than the commercial stuff which, by the time the consumer gets it, can be five to seven days old.

http://www.edibleeastbay.com/pages/a...fs/markets.pdf

So, as KY said, we're spoiled here ... and if it sounds as though I'm proud of what the Bay Area and other nearby areas can provide, and what the farmers and ranchers are doing, well, you're right. And I'm very happy to know that other areas of the country are doing similar things - we NEED a return to traditional values and quality. We need to return to eating real food, not the junk that's in so many markets these days.

shel
post #14 of 16
>we can actually get better products than USDA organic even though the products aren't certified as organic. Strange, isn't it.<

Not strange at all, Shel, to anyone familiar with the politics of organic growing.

Until it was decided that we needed federal certification, there were two areas that really set the bar: The California state organic standards, and those set by Oregon Tilth. In both cases, the rules were much more tightly drawn than those the Feds adopted (and yet, certification cost less than with the lower standards set in Washington).

California's regs often were the benchmark used by other growers as well. Here in Kentucky, for instance, we had virtually no meaningful standards. So places like the Good Foods Co-oP would only buy from growers who met the California standards.

Many of the growers and other producers in your region still abide by the old California standards. And, thus, without being certified, they are providing much better products than those grown by the organic factory farms who are.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #15 of 16
Thank you KY and Shel - and Shel - yes I am jealous of the products you have avail in your area :) Before we moved, I was close to a farmer's market, and used to go to the same farmer every time, whose produce was straight out of the soil that morning - you could see it on his hands and clothes. But, unfortunately, I think he has passed on and I'll miss both his conversation and his fresh produce. His fruit and veg tasted real... the celery tasted like celery, not that tasteless stuff you buy in the supermarket, etc etc.

It seems curious and at the same time disturbing that a lot of the regulations were written and/or suggested by the major corporations...surely that could be seen as some sort of self-preservation by making the terms too restrictive to be able to compete against themselves?

Its a complex and endless debate.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #16 of 16
Thread Starter 
I don't see it as complex, in fact, it seems very straightforward and simple:
"Don't eat anything your great-great-great grandmother wouldn't recognize
as food. Imagine how baffled your ancestors would be in a modern supermarket:
the epoxy-like tubes of Go-Gurt, the preternaturally fresh Twinkies, the vaguely
pharmaceutical Vitamin Water."

Michael Pollan Article

I know that it's hard for some people to eat like that all the time these days, but it's certainly something to strive for, and very easy and possible to do for certain foods in certain areas. It may be different in various places, but given the choice, keep it simple and basic. Everyone can find some real, unadulteraded food ...

shel
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