In Mzansi, a home cooked Sunday lunch is nothing without a deep fried or oven baked potato. Our nourishing local spuds are believed to have come from Holland to provide food for mariners visiting the Cape and were first planted in South Africa in the 1650’s, almost 300 years ago.
The South African potato industry has seriously evolved since then. The non-profit organisation Potatoes South Africa (PSA) stands as the mouthpiece for Mzansi’s potato producers, and they are continuously investing in emerging farmers, despite challenges that have hit the industry.
JF van der Merwe, a potato farmer and chairperson of PSA, says the entire agricultural sector has been affected by various external challenges over the past few years, some of which includes political uncertainty, and unfavourable and changing climate.
“Despite these challenges, SA potato growers produce enough potatoes. The slogan ‘Feed The Nation’ is definitely being executed and we are making an important contribution to food security and job creation in South Africa,” the Western Free State farmer says.
In 2010 the organisation started an enterprise development programme, assisting black emerging farmers to start their own potato production businesses. To date the programme has recruited and helped more than forty upcoming potato farmers.
“The goal of the enterprise development programme is to assist in setting up, supporting and growing viable new black-owned potato producing enterprises through the provision of seed, mentorship, training, technical support and industry exposure,” says PSA Communications Manager, Hanrie Greebe.
Potatoes were First planted in the Cape as food for seafarers in the 1650’s – Potatoes SA
Fun SA Potato Industry facts: Paper bags were only allowed as packaging in the mid 60’s; in 1969 the standard package for potatoes was 15kg! Over the years it has changed, and the standard now is 7kg. Did you know that it is compulsory to have the nutritional value on potato bags? Yip! Also, the United Nations declared 2008 as International Year of the Potato.
According to Ulla Pakendorf-Loubser, chef and health coach, potatoes contain a variety of nutrients, especially within the skin.
“It contains protein, fibre, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, manganese and also antioxidants, which may reduce the risk of chronic disease. Many of the nutrients are concentrated in the skin, so pealing reduces the nutrient content.”
Pakendorf-Loubser suggests that baby potatoes with the skin is much better than large potatoes, because it has more surface area of skin and nutrients. She says it contains resistant starch, which may improve digestive health. Still, the nutrient value often gets reduced through different cooking methods.
“Be mindful of how you cook your potatoes and how many you consume in a week – moderation is always key. There is nothing wrong with baking, boiling or steaming your potatoes with the skin on. If you add a healthy topping or serve it with fish or a salad it can actually be a really nutritious addition to your diet.”