I am a true Idahoan at heart; born and bread in the land of potatoes and well accustomed to the “Oh the potato state huh…did you drive a tractor to school?” remark. Somehow, even without a tractor or a potato field within miles of my hometown, I couldn’t escape the inevitable potato pride and affinity for all things potato, which elicits snickers from those who have not yet come to terms with the true greatness of the land I call home and its famous tasty taters. I feel a tinge of disappointment when the potato is brushed off the nutritional map into the junk food denomination as a mere vehicle for ketchup, salt, deep fried grease, bacon bits and sour cream. The potato, let me tell you, in its many colors, sizes, varieties, shapes and flavors, is one of nature’s greatest packages of delicious, nourishment; easy, versatile and actually quite good for you. In the spirit of the season and upcoming St. Patrick’s day celebrations, what better time to pay respect to this underestimated tuber?

The potato is a tuber that grows underground on the roots of the plant after it has matured and flowered. This makes them a great locally grown food you can consume well into the winter months because they can be left insulated and preserved in the cold ground until just before use. There are over 4,000 known varieties that come in hues of blue, purple, red, golden, pink, white and dark brown.

If the fryer doesn’t get a hold of them before you do, potatoes are a rich source of nutrients while low in calories and fat. A bad rap has been placed on the potato for its starchy carbohydrate content (80% on average) but recent nutritional research has found that a significant portion of this is not directly digested in the stomach and small intestine and is instead a resistant starch that helps regulate digestion, makes you feel fuller longer and promotes sustained energy similar to the effects of fiber. Potatoes also contain about 10% protein, which plays a significant role in the energy supply process and maintenance of sustained, even energy after consumption.

Although it is hard to believe when you picture potatoes as the crispy contents in an air packed bag of chips, whole unprocessed potatoes with the skins on supply a good amount of vitamin C, B vitamins (folic acid, thiamin and niacin), potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron and zinc. In addition, the phytonutrients in potatoes, which vary according to color, are great antioxidants that help clear your body of harmful free radicals. Blue, purple, and pink potatoes are richest in antioxidants and make a beautiful display on the table.

In eastern medicine traditions the potato is revered for its healing properties, especially on the digestive system. Internally, potatoes are attributed with the power to calm the digestive tract, decrease bloating, lubricate the intestines, tone the spleen and pancreas and fortify the kidneys. Externally, raw potatoes are used to draw infection out of wounds and decrease swelling.

Idahoan, Irish or otherwise, people of all walks of life can enjoy potatoes for their nourishing qualities, easy availability, versatility and ubiquitous appeal. In addition to the Russets in Full Circle’s Farm-to-Table box this week, Austrian Crescent Fingerlings, brilliant purples and buttery Yukon Golds are available for substitution. Check out the amazing recipe for Baked Potato Soup in the recipe section of your member page or the Potato Parsnip cakes on our Good Food Life blog that are perfect for a St. Patty’s day brunch or appetizer.