You Say Potato, and I Say Potahto

I was three years old in 1937 when the film, Shall We Dance, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, was released. One of the classic songs in that film was titled, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off, written by George and Ira Gershwin. It contained the lyrical phrase I’ve used for my headline; I’ll tell you why, but first, I suggest that, no matter your age, you search the song on You Tube, and then watch Astaire and Rogers sing it and perform one of their fabulous dances together . . . . this time on roller skates. Amazing! Dancing With the Stars can’t hold a candle to them.

Now, I was reminded of the phrase in the song because I‘m writing about potatoes, actually sweet potatoes, one of my favorite foods. They’re really delicious, but the only time many of us get to enjoy them is around Thanksgiving and other fall holidays. On average an American consumes only about 8 pounds of fresh sweet potatoes a year vs. about 33 pounds of fresh white potatoes (excluding chips and fries). Nutritionally, the two types are similar, except sweet potatoes contain far more Vitamin A.

Sweet potatoes can be found in a range of colors from pale orange to deep red and purple, although the more exotic varieties generally can’t be found in US supermarkets.

At only 180 calories (without marshmallow topping, of course ) and a whopping 7 grams of fiber per cup, sweet potatoes outperform by filling you up without fattening you up.

Another heart-healthy reason to eat sweet potatoes is their potassium content, 950 milligrams per cup. There are all kinds of vitamins in sweet potatoes, as there are in regular white potatoes, but there are differences, too. For example, in addition to an abundance of Vitamin A, sweet potato leaves are edible and make a great salad, whereas white potato leaves are poisonous, indicative of their different plant families. Although they’re both called ‘potato,’ white potatoes are from the same family as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant; sweet potatoes’ family produces morning glories and other vines, shrubs and herbs. (Sweet potatoes are sometimes called yams, which is a misnomer, since they are only distantly related to yams.)

So, whether you say ‘potato’ or ‘potahto’, try making them ‘sweet’ more often. I think you might love them as much as I do.