Potatoes are appealing

Farm Forum

“When are Potato Days?” I asked my husband.

“It’s in a couple weeks, I think,” he responded.

“I wonder if it’s being held sooner than that. I’ll Google it. I don’t want to miss having my annual potato dumpling!” I said as I picked up my iPad and began searching for information for the festival, which dates back to the late 1930’s.

I’m glad I checked the date. The big potato event of the summer was the following weekend and we made plans to attend.

I must admit that the dumplings are the greatest draw for me, but there are lots of other things to do in Barnesville, Minn. during their annual potato extravaganza. Activities range from potato sculpting to a potato cook-off and a tator tot pageant.

They also have potato wrestling. No, I haven’t participated in that.

The Potato Days Festival has my favorite “stick to the ribs” delicacy, “German” potato dumplings. I have the same recipe from my great aunt who was born in Norway. I guess Norwegians and Germans exchanged recipes in Minnesota somewhere along the line.

Our 11-year-old daughter, who has both Norwegian and German ancestry, didn’t debate the origin of the recipe. She grinned at me and licked her lips as she ate her buttery dumpling.

I think she takes after me.

After enjoying our dumplings, we continued testing other hearty fare. We had mashed potatoes, meatballs and gravy. We didn’t wait in the two-blocks-long line for free French fries, though. I was pretty full after the first two main courses, so I didn’t have any lefse, potato donuts, potato pancakes or potato sausage. There’s always next year.

What about these potatoes? Are they good for us? I was thinking about taste as I savored my dumpling, but potatoes provide a lot of nutrition, too.

The complex carbohydrates in potatoes provide energy to fuel our muscles and brain. Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, with one potato providing 45 percent of the daily recommendation. Potatoes with their skin also provide about 2 grams of fiber. Without added toppings, potatoes contain no fat, no sodium and no cholesterol.

While we may think of bananas when we talk about potassium, potatoes are a better source. One medium potato has 18 percent of the daily recommendation for potassium. Potassium is an important mineral that helps our bodies regulate our blood pressure. We need adequate potassium for nerve transmission and muscle contraction.

To retain nutrients, cook potatoes in their skins and eat the skin or peel it as thinly as possible. Many of the nutrients are directly beneath the skin in an area known as the cambium. To help prevent nutrient loss during boiling, use as little water as possible and a tight-fitting lid to avoid the loss of water during cooking.

If you’re hungry for a delicious potato meal, here is an easy end-of-the-summer recipe to enjoy on the outdoor grill.

Potato Packets for the Outdoor Grill

4 large, red potatoes (about 1.5 pounds), cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

2 Tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil

2 Tbsp. chopped parsley

2 Tbsp. chopped red pepper

1/2 tsp. salt or seasoned salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Paprika (sprinkle)

Heavy-duty aluminum foil or one large, extra heavy-duty foil cooking bag

Variations: Add one of the following ingredients: 1/4 c. chopped green onions, one chopped jalapeno chili pepper with seeds removed or 1/4 c. chopped cilantro.

Prepare outdoor grill. Place two 30- by 18-inch sheets of heavy-duty foil to make a double thickness. Place potatoes, oil and seasonings in center of foil. Bring short sides up and fold over several times to seal well. Gently shake to combine ingredients. (Or, place recipe ingredients in foil bag, seal and shake to combine.) Place bag on hot grill rack, cover and cook 15 minutes. Carefully turn the bag over using tongs or another utensil to avoid burns, then cook another 15 minutes. Remove from grill and cut slits in bag, allowing steam to escape. Carefully open and transfer mixture to a platter.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 186 calories, 27grams (g) of carbohydrate, 7.3 g of fat, 3 g of fiber and 300 milligrams of sodium.