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Posted: June 15, 2009

Entirely Homegrown: Potatoes on the rise

High in calories and nutrients, potatoes are a locavore's dream

Mike Taylor

In an earlier installment of “Entirely Homegrown,” I wrote about  the disproportionate hopes I’m pinning on the potato as I try to live off only what I can produce in my backyard for one month, August.

Who can blame me? Potatoes grow fast in just about any climate, they do OK in most soils and they produce a lot of crop on little land. Besides that, I’m Irish. Potatoism is an innate part of my belief system.

I also said I would try to settle conflicting reports I’d received on the nutritional value of the spud. For those just tuning in: A woman sitting at a bar watching the Nuggets game a couple weeks back had claimed the spud had zero nutritional value, citing Billy Bob Thornton’s potato-diet-induced hospitalization in the 1980s as evidence. My friend George, citing his mom, claimed the potato has every nutrient you need.

So I did some research, the most succinct of which comes from a story that ran last year in The Economist: “It provides more calories, more quickly, using less land and in a wider range of climate than any other plant,” the article said. “It is, of course, the potato.”

There you go.

And a Harvard University paper on Christopher Columbus’ contribution to world population and the potato’s role in that growth was even more glowing: “Humans can subsist healthily on a diet of potatoes and milk,” the paper proclaimed. It then rattled off the vitamins, minerals, fiber and other potato benefits. 

So there you have it.

Oddly, while my friend George was closest to being correct about the potato’s impressive nutritional content, the woman at the bar seems to be right about Billy Bob Thornton having to be hospitalized as a result of eating nothing but potatoes for some period in the ‘80s (although there is speculation the actor made up that tale to fortify his early starving-artist persona).

Along with relying on the potato for food, I had hoped to grow enough potatoes to turn some of the crop into vodka. But a meeting (and subsequent video for ColoradoBiz TV) with the vodka pros at Colorado Pure Distilling all but snuffed out those hopes. They told me I’d need 30 to 40 pounds of potatoes to make just one bottle of vodka. And besides that, they said, it’s illegal to make without a license.

Check out that video interview with Colorado Pure Distilling and this latest “Entirely Homegrown” segment on the venerable tuber.

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Mike Taylor is the managing editor of ColoradoBiz. He writes about small-business money issues and how startups are launched. Email him at

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Readers Respond

I was amazed to know that there are people who still failed to embraced the nutritional values of potatoes - just like the eggplant which was also known to have zero nutrients which again was a true lie. These two crops/veggies are very nutritious. <a href="">hampers</a> By hampers on 2009 07 09

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