My, but we have grown fond of tinkering with our food.
Our 21st century edibles are awash with low fat, vitamin-enriched, cholesterol-free labels. As consumers demand more and more bang for their grocery buck, it gets ever harder for an unadorned fruit or vegetable to just be. It seems that they must be both new and improved to attract our attention.
Perhaps that’s why scientists at Japan’s Obihiro University have been subjecting potatoes to electric shock treatment.
They say that the rush of antioxidants produced by the application of either electric shocks or ultrasound makes the potato more nutritious. That’s as maybe, but what’s more important, surely, is what you do with the potatoes afterward. If their final destination is the deep-fat fryer, then what matter that you’ve got a “healthier” potato to begin with.
Meanwhile, if it’s higher levels of antioxidants that you’re after, those of you in the UK could simply switch to the newly available “healthy purple potatoes.”
Purple Majesty, a non-GM variety developed at Colorado State University, reportedly contains up to ten times the level of antioxidants found in white potatoes, and are now being grown in Scotland. I’ll happily admit that I’m as fond of a nice purple potato as the next person, but they’re not always what I want on my plate (and just you try feeding funny coloured spuds to my father and see how far you get). In the end, whatever potatoes you eat (and I do suggest you eat at least some, purple or otherwise), surely it matters more that they are part of a balanced diet which includes a rainbow of other vegetables and fruits.
And, finally, what can I say about the so-called Protato?
Scientists at India’s Central Potato Research Institute are working on a spud which will have 60% more protein, resulting from the insertion of protein genes from amaranth into potatoes. It’s aimed at addressing issues of malnutrition in Indian children, with plans to incorporate the new potato into the government’s free midday meal programme in schools. Many commentators note that this is at the expense of promoting amaranth and pulses, the most important sources of protein in the Indian diet. I can’t help but wonder what Jamie Oliver, hero of the healthier school dinner, would think.