In Nepal they call the potato the King of vegetables. How did a simple tuber from Peru make it’s way to the other side of the world and become everyone’s favorite vegetable ? At what cost ? In the medieval city of Panauti which boasts Nepal’s oldest preserved temple as the entire town is constructed on one piece of rock, potatoes fill the basement of virtually every house. I can not walk anywhere without seeing sacks of potatoes being carried or basements filled with potatoes. The farmers are waiting for the season to be over so they get a higher price but one of the youth joked with me that despite getting a higher price they will have lost 30% of their horde due to rot, so despite the higher price their actual profit at the end of the day is the same.
The surprise for this ironically named King of vegetables is that it contains known neurotoxins and some senior Vaidyas like Vaidya Rk Mishra have for decades been advising his patients to stop all nightshades of which potatoes are a part of this family. Besides containing slow poisons such as solanine, atropine and scopolamine, potatoes are addictive which is probably how they became King. The lowly Amalaki which grows wild in Nepal’s forests and has the highest source of heat stable vitamin C known to man, does not get such a title in local times. Fortunately the Rishis had their say long before modern man started to think about things (which he is surprisingly not good at).
I joked with the youth here in Panauti (I secretly call it Potatoti) that they will all start to look like potatoes and the joke is not far from the truth for many of the older generations I observe especially the middle aged folk who probably have eaten the most for the really elderly would have had a much more traditional diet of piralo (taro root), yams and sweet potato, a definite impact on health and physique from the excess of spud consumption.
I found it funny that it is the King of vegetables as in the Nepali monarchy there have been some recent Kings who might have left much for want, so perhaps in the context of today’s Nepal it is not such an inaccurate title.
But as I write this I am trying to shed some insight in the people of Nepal (and India) that potatoe is not a local vegetable, it was brought from far away, not so long ago. It has detrimental effects on health and has also been connected to birth defects. It’s also addictive that is why everyone loves it. It has a similar neural pathway to nicotine in tobacco which is ironically also a nightshade.
So as I write this post in some jest, it is with a prayer that the Vaidyas of India and Nepal (who probably for now eat the most of the nightshades) can re-consider these “modern” foods that have become overnight Royalty, in favor of their truly Royal foods that are now lost and locked away in the shastras.
Let’s hear it for the Royal family of bitter gourd, loki, ash gourd, snake gourd, white pumpkin and so many more…