27 Jul 2020

For the love of potatoes

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 2:40 pm on 27 July 2020

An expert on potatoes says consumers should tell sellers they don't want the produce packaged in plastic bags if they want the industry to shift to using cardboard boxes or paper bags.

Chris Claridge, chief executive of the Potato Council, tells Jesse Mulligan the popular vegetable is a healthy choice and storing them in a paper bag was better, ensuring it lasts.

Man in the fields holding yellow potatoes in fields

Photo: npantos

“We’re starting to find now that growers are starting to sell in cardboard boxes. You can always buy them loose and put them into a paper bag." he says.

“The consumers are the ones that have to drive this – in terms of what they want to see. Currently we have consumers who want them in plastic bags, so we give people the choice, but it is something the industry is taking very seriously and moving away from.”

The variety of potato is a matter of subjective taste, with 'all-round' potatoes a winner for those with a less-seasoned palate. But for the connoisseur there is a spud for every dinner occasion - roasted, mashed, jacketed, used in salads and strews.

Red potatoes  and other 'coloured' potatoes, are becoming more popular, even though some argue the taste isn't quiet the same as the yellow or brown-skinned variety. Claridge encourages people to experiment.

This is especially important as the ever-popular cultivar 'Agria' is becoming harder to grow and are more susceptible to disease . The yellow/brown skinned potato with a yellow flesh is particularly suitable for wedges, roasting and chipping.

But he says there are other yellow cultivars out there. These do not have more sugar content than white varieties, he adds.

“Try them, have a go at them. Don’t be nervous and that it’s not Agria so it’s not going to perform as well.”

Potatoes account for exports worth $130 million per year.Twenty tonnes of that produce goes to Pacific island, Claridge says. It underlines the need to protect growing areas particularly, like those south of Auckland.

“I think we have to value our highly-productive soils. It’s good to see the Government’s got new policy coming out, which is the highly-productive land – the land use classification one, two and three, the highly-productive soils and they’re unique.

“Pukekohe soils are brilliant, they’ve got this unique characteristic that’s called a suppressive soil, which suppresses the soil-borne diseases.

“So, you can use them more and keep them highly productive and we can’t lose these sort of soils because New Zealand soils aren’t that brilliant overall. Because we are a new country New Zealand soils are quite shallow in some places.

“They’re prone to leeching and all sorts of issues, so these pockets of what are in a lot of cases volcanic soils like Pukekohe, this rich red soil, we’ve got to protect. Once you’ve put a house on it you’ll never get it back again.”

Dieting trends like Aitkins and Keto shun carbs and although Claridge says he understands the reasons why people do so, it doesn't take away from the fact the vegetable is a healthy option, making people feel relaxed and giving them the sensation of being filled.

“We try to acknowledge that some people see potatoes as problematic. But in reality, potatoes when they are consumed appropriately, don’t present any health problems. They simply don’t.”

Potatoes don’t lead to insulin spikes and eating them cold makes them even harder to digest quickly. Some gut health advocates say eating cold potatoes helps feed good gut bacteria. Potatoes also satiate the appetite well, meaning to feel fuller for longer, he says.

There is not true that potatoes in New Zealand are sprayed with the harmful systemic herbicide Round-up, he says. This would kill the tuber.

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)