AMES, Iowa – The days are getting longer and the weather warmer, which means outdoor time is on the agenda. Now is a great time to begin your garden by planting potatoes. This week’s Sow, Grow, Eat and Keep video from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach discusses planting potatoes as well as the many health benefits of gardening.
The potato is one of the most important vegetable crops in the world. It’s estimated that each person eats about 110 pounds of potatoes a year, which is not surprising since the entire potato is packed with nutrition. The potato provides fiber and 45% of your daily vitamin C, is a good source of B6, which is good for energy, and is packed with potassium. Potassium is particularly important as it helps keep blood pressures at healthy levels. The average potassium intake among Americans is less than half of the recommended intake (4700 mg).
The edible part of the potato plant is call a tuber. The tubers of potato cultivars vary in size, shape, color, storability and cooking uses. Potatoes prefer loose, fertile and slightly acidic soils. The ISU Extension and Outreach publication “Potatoes” provides useful information about planting potatoes as well as caring for them during the growing season.
Gardening offers many health benefits, in addition to the healthy produce it provides.
- Gardening increases a family’s access to food. A 2014 study concluded the average home garden offers about $675 of produce after subtracting the cost of supplies and materials.
- Gardening benefits children’s health and well-being. It introduces them to eat healthful foods, helps them learn general math, measurement and science skills, and encourages them to be active.
- Gardening leads to higher produce intakes, which lower the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
- Gardening reduces stress and may decrease the risk of dementia by 36%.
For those interested in learning more about gardening, contact your county extension office for information about the Master Gardener program at ISU Extension and Outreach. Training begins across the state this fall.
ISU Extension and Outreach will be hosting weekly Sow, Grow, Eat and Keep quickinars. These quickinars will be 5-15 minute online lessons of seasonally appropriate topics for the garden, food preparation and food preservation. Some of the upcoming topics include:
- Container gardening.
- Cool weather crops (lettuce, spinach, peas).
- Freezer jams (rhubarb/strawberry).
- Scouting for garden pests.
- Tilling and watering basics.
- Produce food safety.
- Canning produce.
Send your food or garden questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information on planting and harvesting, review the ISU Extension and Outreach publication “Planting and Harvesting Times for Garden Vegetables.”
To learn more about onions, visit the publication “Onions.”
Original photo: Potatoes.