Dear Sun Spots: You find the answers to so many problems. Maybe you can find out what has happened to potatoes?

The past few years, it’s become increasingly difficult to purchase any that are decent. They look okay, but if peeling, one loses about half because of discoloration. After they are cooked before they can be placed on the table, they turn gray, then black. They don’t look fit to eat. Is there something a person can do to prevent this? Are they safe to eat? I anxiously await an answer. – Maddy, Rumford.

Answer: Sun Spots spoke with Tim Hobbs of the Maine Potato Board, 744 Main St., Presque Isle, ME 04769, (207)769-5061, m[email protected], who says the black is likely from “pressure bruising” occurring when the potatoes are stored in a pile prior to bagging. According to the Potato Board, potatoes should be stored in a root cellar or kept cool. Potatoes are typically harvested in the fall here in Maine and, at the moment, consumers are likely purchasing older potatoes that have been stored over the winter.

Sun Spots also spoke with Alfred Bushway, professor of food science with the University of Maine in Orono, who says one of the reasons cited for the graying, or for darkening after cooking, is a reaction between the iron that is in potatoes and a compound called chlorogenic acid. Bushway says it can go from a light, grain color to very, very black. The discoloration has no effect on the flavor or nutritional value of the potato but is not aesthetically pleasing.

And Sun Spots also spoke with crops specialist Jim Dwyer at Cooperative Extension who says potatoes are 80 percent water and the bruising from the weight of storage does exaggerate the discoloration. One variety of potato that tends to discolor easily is the Ontario, Dwyer says. Another that often turns gray upon cooking is the Katahdin.

In the meantime, Sun Spots hopes you and your family enjoy the following recipes from the Maine Potato Board’s Web site:

Potato Bread. Ingredients: 1 small Maine potato, shredded; ½ cup orange juice concentrate; ¼ cup water; 1/3 cup orange marmalade; ¼ cup vegetable oil; 1 egg, beaten; 3 cups flour; ½ cup sugar; 2 teaspoons baking powder; ¼ teaspoon salt. Method: Cook the shredded potato in just enough water to cover it, for 10 minutes. Cool and drain. Combine cooled and drained potato with orange juice concentrate, water, marmalade, oil and egg. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the liquid ingredients and stir just until combined. Spoon batter into three, greased mini-loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes then remove from pans and let cool.

Garden Potato Salad Ingredients: 6 medium red Maine potatoes, cubed; ¾ cup diced celery; 1½ cup broccoli florets; ¾ cup green beans (blanched); ½ cup cauliflower; ½ cup red pepper. Dressing: ¼ cup fat-free Italian salad dressing, ½ cup low-fat mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons fat-free dry ranch dressing, pepper. Method: Cook potatoes – cool, add all other ingredients. Cover and chill. Makes 10 servings.

Dear Sun Spots: I am looking for a local source who would make a curved wood screen for a large curved glass window. Please contact Louis R. at (207) 782-9882. – L. R., No Town.

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