tubers1Now that Thanksgiving is behind us and we’re looking ahead to the rest of the holiday season, Aunt Toby would like to take this moment to do a little bit more pumping for the vegetable end of things. I think veggies are vastly under-rated in terms of what nutrition we can squeeze out of them — especially root veggies, and now it’s time for an All-Star Tuber Nutritional Smack-down!

Tubers have gotten a horrible reputation, thanks to the low-carb movement (and for those of you out there who have figured out what carbs are driving your digestive tract bonkers, bless you..and it’s time to move on). But ‘stuff grown under the ground has a lot to recommend it. Tubers are high in carbohydrates, no doubt about it, but they are also very high in vitamins and minerals that are also very good for us and are more ‘nutritionally dense’ in general than veggies that are grown above the ground. So, let’s not throw the veggie out with the bathwater..or whatever.

OK..so as they used to say on ‘Carmen Sandiego’ – “To the Map!!!” Today’s Smack Down Candidates: White Potatoes (aka Irish Potatoes), Sweet Potatoes, and Jerusalem Artichokes

Scientific Names:

White (Irish) Potatoes: Solanum tuberosum:  from the same family as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatillos. Introduced from Central and South America.

Sweet Potatoes: Ipomoea batatas. It’s from the same family as morning glories. Introduced from Central and South America.

Jerusalem Artichoke: Helianthus tuberosus; from the same family as sunflowers and asters. Native to the Eastern half of the United States.

Now, for those folks who are concerned about glycemic index and inflammatory nature of various foods, here are the ratings for these three veggies courtesy of http://www.nutritiondata.com/:

White Potatoes (from now on, I’m going to call them just potatoes because I’m lazy):  Mildly inflammatory

Sweet Potatoes:  Highly anti-inflammatory

Jerusalem Artichokes: Moderately inflammatory

Time for the comparisons. Let’s dig in, shall we (see Note below)?

Item………………….……..Sweet Potatoes…………Potatoes…………Jerusalem Artichokes

Vit. A…………………………38,433 IU…………………0…………………….30 IU

Vit. C…………………………39.2 mgr…………………15.7 mgr………….6 mgr

Manganese……………….1……………………………….28………………….6 mgr

Fiber………………………….6.6 gr…………………………2.9 gr…………….2.4 gr

Vit. B6……………………    .6 mgr………………………. .42 mgr…………  .1 mgr

Potassium………………….950 mgr……………………510 mgr…………….643 mgr

Iron……………………………1.46 mgr……………………1.66 mgr…………5.1 mgr

Calories……………………..180……………………………133………………….109

Protein………………………..4 gr………………………….2.8 gr……………….3 gr.

Carbohydrate……………41.4 gr………………………..31 gr……………………..26.2 gr

Folate………………………..12 mg………………………..13 mgr……………………19 mgr

(Note – these are all deemed ‘1 serving’ but the servings are all different sizes, so ‘your mileage may vary’)

tubers2Now, Jerusalem Artichokes may seem to be the poor cousin (except in certain areas), but one important thing to remember is this: the Jerusalem Artichoke was one of the major food sources for the eastern forest indigenous peoples before the arrival of the Europeans. It can be eaten raw or cooked. And one of its major advantages over other starchy vegetables is this: it’s starch is in the form of inulin.

If you are not familiar with inulin, I invite you to check out a couple of spots in your groceria: the pasta aisle and the dairy section. Manufacturers are using inulin to lower the glycemic index of pastas (and at the same time, they are also increasing the amount of fiber in the product); yogurt producers are also using it to not only thicken the yogurt but also, increase the absorption of calcium from dairy products. http://www.inulinplaza.com/en/1/2/11/198/228/229/

Inulin is also a prebiotic and has other salutary effects, especially in relation to the treatment of diabetes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inulin

Considering the rate of diabetes in Native Americans, and also considering the fact that at least with Eastern forest native peoples, the Jerusalem artichoke (or sunchoke as it is sometimes called) was traditionally a major food source rather than grains or potatoes, it would seem that this connection would deserve greater investigation.

Cooks have taken great flights of fancy with sweet and white potatoes over the years (after all, President Obama’s favorite confection is Sweet Potato Pie), but at Chez Siberia, we like them plain.

Best way to cook these:

Sweet Potatoes and White Potatoes. Scrub and bake. I’m not big on microwaving either one of these. That’s it. Put a little plain yogurt or Greek style yogurt on Potatoes. Sweet Potatoes don’t need anything. Not honey. Not marshmallows. Nuthin.

Sunchokes: Scrub well; you don’t have to peel them. These can be eaten raw in salads by slicing; but toss immediately in lemon or orange juice, vinegar or acidic salad dressing to prevent the veggies from  discoloring. To cook, slice the artichokes and stir-fry, sauté, braise, roast or steam.

Bon Appetit!

TobyWollin

TobyWollin

Snarky housewife from Upstate New York. Into gardening, fiber arts, smallholder farming.