Community, Plants

American Foods

I listened to a comment about Indian Tacos.  Now the only difference between a regular taco and an Indian taco is that the Indian Taco is wrapped in fry bread.  A regular taco is surrounded by a corn (maize) tortilla of some sort.  Fry bread is wheat based – in other words of European origin.  Corn is a crop that was developed and domesticated by Native Americans – Indians in the vernacular.

I can make an argument that the age of exploration was fueled (at least in part) by the limited food choices in Europe.  Scotland raised oats, and had a national cuisine based on oatmeal.  The Brits specialized in a delicacy called gruel.  French history records 111 famines between 1371 and 1791. 

In my lecture notes from the Indians of North America class, I have the sentence written large: “American Indians cultivated over 300 food crops, often with dozens of varieties.”  I’ve lost the source over the years, but I am certain research could confirm it.  As we harvest the garden, the corn, squash and beans typically raised by American Indians are there.  This year we skipped the potatoes – a crop that transformed Europe . . . and brought Ireland from 3.2 million people to 8.2 in about a century (I should have included more sources in my speaking notes).  60% of the world’s edible crops were developed in the New World, by Native Americans.

We barely dignify grain amaranth with a glance – yet it moved from Peru to the highlands of Pakistan, Tibet and Nepal – my foreign students knew the value of a crop that we don’t touch.  Wild rice is neither wild nor rice – it was developed and dispersed by the Ojibwa.  I’m still trying to find a variety for the pond.  China became the largest producer of sweet potatoes – another American crop.

Today, it’s tomatoes on my plate.  I think of spaghetti sauce, of Pizza, and wonder just how limited Italian cooking would be without the crops domesticated by America’s native crop scientists and producers.  Most of the crops in my garden are native to this hemisphere.

A Science for Everyone, Plants

Low Carb Potatoes

As the garden becomes better established, I’m researching low carbohydrate potatoes.  I like potatoes, but part of surviving cancer included type II diabetes.  It isn’t a big deal – but potatoes and apples are high in carbohydrates, carbohydrates convert to sugar, and I have the ability to find the low carb varieties.  If I can’t buy them in the stores, I can grow them in the garden.

Spud Smart and Potato Grower both have articles on the new varieties of potatoes that are low carb. The Spud Smart article starts with

Potandon Produce unveiled its first low-carbohydrate potato Oct. 19 during the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit convention in New Orleans. The Idaho Falls-based company boasts its CarbSmart potato has 55 percent fewer carbohydrates than rice or pasta.”

Boise isn’t that far away, Idaho produces a lot of potatoes, and I have hopes of being able to find their CarbSmart potato in the grocery store.

Potato Grower describes a world where many different low carb potatoes are available – though it’s a long drive to get Lotato in the Netherlands or New Zealand.  Still, the Sunlite variety is listed as available in supermarkets ranging from Florida to Minnesota – and the drive is getting shorter. 

Montana State University has developed a variety named “Huckleberry Gold.”  For a change, it is easier to find data online from the seed potato sellers than from the university.  The common description is “MSU researchers have found that Huckleberry Gold has a low glycemic index. This variety does not cause a rapid spike in blood sugar like most starchy foods. Great potato for diabetics!

It appears to need a slightly longer growing season than Trego offers – more suited to Eureka or Rexford.  Still, there are ways to work around this – a dark cold frame to warm the soil early and protect from late frost will help me.  I can mix a bit of sand into my silty clay to come up with a small plot closer to a loam and better suited for potatoes.  I am looking forward to raising potatoes that do not spike my blood sugar.

Huckleberry Gold produces round to oval small to medium sized tubers with purple skin and yellow flesh. Resistant to common scab and verticillium wilt.”

Irish Eyes Garden Seeds

“Researchers in the Sands’ Research Lab at MSU’s Plant Science Department have found low glycemic index potatoes that do not cause the rapid spike in blood sugar that comes with eating starchy foods. Sugar spikes can be dangerous for diabetics who lack the insulin to handle it and have been linked to cancer, heart disease and other conditions.”

Ag Update