POTATOES, A BLADDER-FRIENDLY VEGGIE
"Potatoes again?" I can remember complaining to my mom as I plunked myself down in
the chair for dinner. I scowled at the mashed potatoes on my plate. Potatoes were ok... but at six
years old I saw them as one boring vegetable. I can still see my mom's smile as I announced that
when I grew up I'd eat nothing but enchiladas and chocolate cake.
Well, some things just don't change. I still hanker for spicy enchiladas and rich chocolate
cake (and sometimes I sneak a bit anyway). Of course for me, a big part of the attraction for
such foods (then as now) is the old "forbidden fruit" thing-- I simply can't eat them whenever I
want. But that doesn't mean that the foods I CAN eat are required to be boring.
With the emphasis on healthy cuisine these days, chefs across the country are experimenting
with unusual flavor combinations, pungent herbs and aromatic spices to lend exciting new
flavors to what most people consider bland vegetables. It's not hard to find intriguing and tasty
potato recipes. For instance, in her recent cookbook, "50 Best Mashed Potatoes", Sarah
Reynolds devotes the entire volume to innovative recipes for that old potato standby. Anything
but humdrum, her recipes prove that just about any food can be made flavorful with a bit of
ingenuity. (If you've been used to boxed quick mashed potatoes, by all means try the homemade
variety! The fluffy, creamy goodness is well worth the extra few minutes of preparation time.
You may avoid bladder pain from some unfriendly preservatives like BHA and BHT as well.)
Colorful and Vitamin-packed
Though we often associate them with the Irish, potatoes actually are a New World food
and have been cultivated for centuries by the natives in South America. If you've ever seen the
potatoes these indigenous peoples harvest its hard to believe they are related to what's in our
supermarkets. Native potatoes come in a rainbow of colors (including lavender and black) and
are unusual shapes and sizes (some are as small as marbles).
Four of the most common cultivated types of potatoes in the United States are russets
(the baking potato), long whites (good for boiling and cold potato salads), round whites and
round reds (these last two are frequently served with the skins left on). The last two types are
often sold in stores as White Rose or Red Rose potatoes. "Spring" or "new" potatoes are
simply a small size of the round red or white varieties. Making inroads in the marketplace are
some relatively new varieties that are worth trying. Some of them show their native heritage and
have the curious inside or outside coloring. They also may have slightly different flavors. Yukon
Gold is quite popular-- when you serve it you'll see why it's aptly named.
Potatoes are good bladder-friendly sources of vitamin C too. According to the American
Dietetic Association, they are also good sources of dietary potassium (so are broccoli, carrots
and sweet potatoes). Potatoes are a starchy vegetable (as are cassavas, breadfruit, taro root,
rutabaga, and corn).
For potatoes, 45 degrees F. is the best temperature for storage. Below 45 degrees F. the
starches begin to return to sugars and the potatoes will taste a bit sweeter with long-term
storage (it's not a good idea to store them in the refrigerator though). Above 45 degrees, they
sprout and shrivel. Exposed to light when stored, they turn green. (By the way, green potatoes
contain solanine, a naturally toxic substance. Most healthy people have no problem at all with
the small amounts in a potato. But as a person with a chronic illness, I know I'm susceptible to a
lot of things most people aren't so I just play it safe and avoid green potatoes).
Cooking with Potatoes
Peeled potatoes will darken when they are exposed to the oxygen in the air. You can
prevent this by immediately submerging them in water for a few minutes. Keep in mind though
that submerging them for a long time may make them lose vitamins .
To help keep small "new" potatoes from splitting their skins when they are steamed, try
cutting off a small strip of the skin around the potato. Thick skinned potatoes are best for baking
while the thinner skinned ones stand up well to boiling or steaming.
Here are three tasty and bladder-friendly potato recipes. This first one is a family favorite
from my cookbook, "A Taste of the Good Life-- A Cookbook for an Interstitial Cystitis Diet".
1. The American Dietetic Association's Complete Food & Nutrition Guide, Roberta Duyff,
Chronimed Publishing, 1998.
2. "Potatoes", bulletin #4179, University of Maine USDA Cooperative Extension Office, 1995.
Rosemary Roasted Potatoes
4 to 6 new red potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, slightly crushed
dash pepper (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and scrub potatoes. Cut in quarters (for large) or halves (for
smaller ones). Add olive oil to a cast-iron skillet and heat.
When hot, add garlic, potatoes and salt, stirring to coat thoroughly. Place skillet in oven and
bake at 400 degrees F. until potatoes are slightly soft, about 20 min. Remove from Oven and add
chives, rosemary and pepper if desired, stirring to coat. Return to oven for about 10 or 15
minutes more until potatoes are soft. (If you don't have a cast-iron skillet, use a regular skillet to
brown the potatoes, then transfer the oil and potatoes to a rimmed cookie sheet or metal baking
Per serving: Calories, 212; Total Fat, 10 grams; Vitamin C, 31 mg.
Golden Grilled Vegetables
(This one's wonderful for Labor Day picnics and backyard barbecues. Each serving also
supplies about 4 times the daily requirement of vitamin C.)
1 pound boiling potatoes, Yukon Gold
1 pound yellow bell pepper
1/2 pound red bell pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 dash salt
Scrub potatoes and cut in 1-inch chunks. Wash and seed bell peppers, cut in 1-inch pieces also.
Dry vegetables on a paper towel. Place vegetables, oil and salt into a bowl and toss to coat
thoroughly. Turn into a double layer of aluminum foil and wrap up. Place on barbecue grill over
medium hot coals and heat approximately 30 minutes. Unwrap and serve.
Per serving: Calories, 187; Total Fat, 7 grams; Vitamin C, 280 mg.
Oven-Baked French Fries
(These are lower in fat and calories than most frozen versions you get at the store and in
addition, you don't have to worry about the bladder effects of preservatives).
3 medium-size potatoes
5 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 dash pepper (optional)
1 pinch dried marjoram
Wash potatoes and preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Cut potatoes into long strips about half an
inch thick, then dry very well on paper towels. Place oil, salt, pepper if desired, and marjoram in
a large bowl with the potato strips. Toss to get strips thoroughly coated. Spread strips on a
cookie sheet in a single layer and place in preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn strips to
brown evenly. Bake another 15 minutes.
Per serving: Calories, 123; Total Fat, 6 grams; Vitamin C, 18 mg.
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