Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew… Samwise Gamgee was on to something when he emphasized the value of spuds. In a survival situation, these tubers can be incredibly valuable for several reasons. In fact — while a varied diet is obviously ideal — there's evidence to suggest that you could survive for long periods by solely eating potatoes.
Despite the common association of potatoes with junk food in western cultures, they're extremely rich in a diverse array of dietary nutrients, more so than most other vegetables. The United Nations designated 2008 the Year of the Potato, and wrote:
“Potatoes are rich in carbohydrates, making them a good source of energy. They have the highest protein content (around 2.1 percent on a fresh weight basis) in the family of root and tuber crops, and protein of a fairly high quality, with an amino-acid pattern that is well matched to human requirements. They are also very rich in vitamin C – a single medium-sized potato contains about half the recommended daily intake – and contain a fifth of the recommended daily value of potassium.”
This sounds good in theory, but what would happen if your survival diet consisted entirely of potatoes?
In 2010, Chris Voigt ate nothing but 20 potatoes a day for 60 days straight. Aside from some weight loss, he reportedly experienced no substantial ill effects. In 2016, another man named Andrew Taylor ate nothing but white and sweet potatoes for a full year, with a few condiments and vitamin pills. He, too, lost a little weight but was reportedly healthy otherwise — he even went on to start an eating plan called Spud Fit.
Of course, there are some nutrients potatoes lack. Calcium is one big concern, so adding some dairy to your diet could compensate. Protein, while relatively high for a vegetable, still isn't enough to meet the FDA's recommendations for a healthy diet. Also, eating nothing but potatoes means eating a lot of carbs, which may lead to sudden hunger fluctuations and eventually promote diabetes.
Again, we certainly wouldn't recommend a potato-only diet outside of an emergency situation. However, it's likely you could subsist on nothing but spuds for several weeks, if not more. Their value to survivalists shouldn't be overlooked, and they'll make an excellent addition to your stockpiles. If you're interested in growing a small crop of potatoes to supplement your other food reserves, check out our past articles on Growing No-Dig Potatoes and The Home Gardening Cheat Sheet.