POTATO- A SOURCE OF NUTRITION

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In the world’s crop map potato ( Botanical name : Solanum Tuberosum) and locally known as ‘Aaloo’ originated in South Africa is being placed in fourth position  next to maize, rice and wheat . Potato, considered to be a ‘Complete Food’   is an excellent source of vitamin C (45 % of the Daily Value- DV), containing Potassium more than a Banana, a good source of vitamin B 6, fat, sodium, and cholesterol free. It is the richest source of starch and produces more food quantity per unit area than any other cereal crop within a short period.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that helps in preventing cellular damage. ; assists in iron absorption; and helps heal wounds and keep  gums healthy. Vitamin C may help in the positive way in the body’s immune system.

One medium size potato can contributes 2 grams of fiber or 8% of the daily value. Dietary fiber is a complex carbohydrate absorbed in the bloodstream. Soluble fiber  may help in lowering lower blood cholesterol. In addition, the same size of potato can add with recommended daily value of 10% of Vitamin B6 . Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin and take active part in carbohydrate and protein metabolism and is required for the synthesis of hemoglobin – an essential component of red blood cells . Also one medium potato provides 6% of the recommended daily value of iron and provides 620 milligrams or 18% of the recommended daily value  of Potassium .It helps in regulating fluids and mineral balance within a cells and thus maintaining normal blood pressure. Besides Potassium takes part in transmitting nerve impulses or signals, and in helping muscles contract.

Staple foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains should be eaten every day, while fried foods and high fat snacks should be used only in an occasional situation. Requirement of potato in the human diet is about 93 gms of potato / head / day But in an average an Indian do not consume more than 60 gms of potato a day .

After an extensive review of the scientific research regarding carbohydrate intake and diabetes, the American Diabetes Association concluded that, for people with diabetes, the total amount of carbohydrate in meals and snacks, rather than the type, is more important in determining the blood sugar (Glycemic) response. Similarly, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) concluded that, when it comes to weight management, it is calories that count, not the proportion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

 

POTATO CULTIVATION

It constitutes nearly half of the worlds annual output of all root and tuber crops. Considering its importance as an economically important staple food in both developed and developing countries, the year 2008 was recognized and celebrated as the International year of potato and no vegetable other than potato has been elevated to such a position considering its importance related to production as well as consumption all over the world.

Potatoes are grown in about 150 countries covering about 19.13 million hectare of land producing nearly 328.87 million tones of potato throughout the world and in the International scenario more than a billion people worldwide eat potato. In terms of production amongst the potato production countries in the world, India has been placed in the top ten since last twenty years, Europe being the largest per capita consumer, followed by North America and Latin America.

In the mid 19th century, when  landlords from England captured most of the land in Ireland, the native Irish poor had to rely on the potato for feeding themselves. It was called the ‘Breadroot’. Millions of  Irish had to depend just on the potato for subsistence. Then came the  dark days when fungus, a deadly potato disease that infected the potato plantation, damaging potatoes within a very short time.

Within a three successive years, all the potato in Ireland was damaged by the ‘great potato blight’ which killed millions of poor  Irish. Within a decade, Ireland’s population came down significantly and many of the remaining set migrated to America for their livelihood .

In India it is used as vegetable alone or mixed with other vegetables. Various products  such as  chips, finger chips etc .are prepared from potato. Potato is grown almost in all states of India. Major potato growing states are namely Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal, Bihar and Assam.  It is noted that UP, West Bengal, Bihar and Punjab together account for about 86% of India’s potato production. However, potato consumption per capita in India  is one of the lowest in the world .

In India more than 80% of the potato crop is raised in the winter season as Rabi crop with some areas under assured irrigation during short winter days from October to March. About 8% area lies in the hills during long summer days from April to October. Rainy season as Kharif potato production is taken in Karnataka, Maharashtra, HP, J&K and Uttranchal.

Potato cultivation prefers well drained soil. It grows under the soil surface and hence extend its tuber more easily in loose soil rather than heavy and compacted soil. The best temperature requires in planting time varies from maximum of 30* C to 32 *C and minimum of 18* C to 20* C. Generally planting period covers from September / October to harvesting period of December / January in Northern plain.

Generally speaking, the type and amounts of nutrients among different potato varieties such as  white and red potatoes may differ slightly, though not significantly. An exception is the sweet potato, which is a top food source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that gets converted to vitamin A in our bodies and is important for healthy skin and eyes.

It is reported that the first farm on potato cultivation started on terraced slopes of Dehradun around 1830  and in no time the methods of potato cultivation was spread to plain area.  The Central Potato Research Institute at Simla and its 7 Regional centers have a germplasm bank of 1,200 potato varieties, and have produced a number of high yielding varieties of potato.

( EDITED : The article was published in the English daily “The Assam Tribune” on August,11,2017)

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