POTATOES, FLORIDA SUNLITE POTATO
Digging The New Florida Sunlite Potato
See also: Discoloring of Cooked Potatoes; Baked Potatoes in Foil; Orgin of Modern Potato; Baked Potato Recipe; Search for the Perfect Potato; Potato Varieties & Types; Idaho Potatoes; Potato Consumption & Production
January through June is potato season in Florida, and this season farmers in the Hastings area are growing a new kind of spud. It’s extra tasty (fresh, with a creamy texture), it’s pretty (oblong, with smooth buff-colored skin), and it has 30 percent fewer carbs than regular potatoes.
The Sunlite potato is the result of over five years of research and the joint efforts of University of Florida scientists, Florida potato growers, and the largest seed potato company in the world, HZPC. Searching for a superior potato that could breathe new life into Florida’s historic potato industry, Dr. Chad Hutchinson and his team of researchers at the University of Florida screened 400 varieties each year. Finishing at the head of the pack, again and again, in taste, texture, and appearance was the potato that would come to be known as Sunlite.
Sunlite potatoes are being produced and marketed by a group of Florida farmers whose families have been growing potatoes for up to six generations. These growers comprise the SunFresh of Florida Marketing Cooperative, Inc., which they formed with the goal of reviving demand for fresh Florida potatoes in the wake of the low-carb diet craze. This season, members of the cooperative are growing Sunlite potatoes in the Hastings area, while contract growers are producing them in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Virginia.
According to Dan Sharretts of SunFresh, consumer response to the low-carb potato has been very favorable. “We have received a lot of feedback from people on low-carb diets who appreciate that there is a potato out there that they can eat,” Sharretts said. “But I don’t want to stress the potato’s low-carb attributes alone. The fact that this potato is low in carbs is just a bonus. The primary reason we chose to grow it was because of its unique taste and appearance.”
The Sunlite potato is moister and creamier than other potatoes. Because it’s not dry, it can stand on its own, without a lot of calorie-laden condiments. A baked Sunlite potato tastes good even without butter or sour cream.
Sunlite potatoes have been selling briskly on the web (to buy a bag online, visit www.sunfreshofflorida.com). They are also available at supermarkets in Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Minnesota, and Michigan. The SunFresh growers are hopeful that they will soon be able to expand their distribution.
“We have received a lot of feedback from people who visit Florida on vacation and purchase SunLite potatoes,” Sharretts said. “Upon returning home to the Northeast or the Northwest, they want to know where they can purchase the potato locally. They are continually asking about it, and the reason is, they really like the flavor. Many people are surprised that something lower in carbs and lower in calories would be so tasty.”
Fans of the Sunlite say its flavor is a little sweeter than other potatoes. They have also been impressed by its clean, smooth skin and its longer shelf life.
“People are responding well to this new low-carb product and are bringing potatoes back to their dinner tables—and that’s a good thing,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson. “Everybody knows that potatoes are delicious and satisfying. But they are also highly nutritious food.”
Like all potatoes, Sunlite potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, with a single serving providing 20 percent of your daily needs. Potatoes provide vitamin B6, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron, and the skins are loaded with healthy fiber. Sunlite potatoes have 30 percent fewer carbohydrates and 25 percent fewer calories than ordinary russets. All potatoes are free of fat and cholesterol and low in sodium.
When shopping, look for potatoes that are firm, smooth, and well shaped. A few shallow eyes are fine, but avoid potatoes with dark spots, soft spots, green areas, cuts, or wrinkled skin. Steer clear of potatoes that have sprouted.
Store Sunlite potatoes in a cool, dry place or in your refrigerator crisper. To keep potatoes fresher longer, SunFresh suggests keeping them away from onions and garlic and in close proximity to a whole fresh lemon (lemon is a natural preservative).
Since most of the nutrients in potatoes are found in the skin, it’s best not to peel your spuds. Instead, SunFresh recommends scrubbing with a vegetable brush using a basin of water and a half cup of distilled vinegar. To preserve vitamins and minerals during cooking, SunFresh recommends cooking at lower temperatures—simmering in a covered pan, for instance, instead of boiling.
“Our customers report that the microwave characteristics of the potato are excellent,” Sharretts said.
Sunlite potatoes are also great for baking in a conventional oven, roasting, or mashing. Remember that potatoes are a very healthy, heart-wise food, as long as you don’t drown them in heavy sauces and condiments. Try one of the recipes below for a delicious but slimmed-down potato treat.
· 4 Florida Sunlite low-carb potatoes
· 1 sweet Florida onion
· 1 tablespoon olive oil
· salt and pepper to taste
Roast the potatoes in a 450-degree F oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender but still firm. Slice the onion very thin, then sauté on medium heat with no oil or butter. Stir with a wooden spoon for about two minutes. Cover the onions and place pan on low heat so they can carmelize. Remove the potato from the oven and cut into half-inch pieces. Sear in a hot pan with salt, pepper, and oil until brown on each side. Drape the onion across the potatoes and serve.
SHRIMP AND MASCARPONE CHEESE MASHED POTATOES
· 2 pounds Florida Sunlite low-carb potatoes
· 1/2 pound fresh Florida shrimp
· 3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
· salt and cracked white pepper
Cut the potatoes into large cubes. Put in a medium-size pot, cover with water, and cook on medium-high heat until tender. Strain the potatoes. Grill your shrimp on low heat so there are no black marks. Cook until pink. Chop shrimp into small bite-size pieces. Combine with potatoes and mix well. Add mascarpone cheese, salt, and cracked white pepper to taste.
For more “Fresh from Florida” cooking ideas,