from the June 2006 issue

A potato for the weight conscious

A low-carb 'diet' potato grown in Israel has quickly become a staple on dinner plates in Great Britain. With American consumers increasingly weight conscious, it is clearly only a matter of time before the 'Vivaldi' potato crosses the ocean to the other side.

In an age where the glycemic index (GI), which measures the amount of carbohydrates food contains, is the new diet phenomenon, the Vivaldi potato, which contains up to 38% less carbohydrates and half the calories of the average potato, has tremendous potential. Potatoes are known to be an excellent source of vitamin C and also contain vitamin E, B vitamins, and minerals calcium and magnesium. Tests are ongoing to ascertain the precise levels of these nutrients in Vivaldi, but these are not expected to be significantly less than in other varieties.

The potato is being grown in Israel by 13 kibbutzim that make up the Hevel Maon cooperative in the Western Negev desert. Due to its mild climate, Israel is a very attractive place for growing all kinds of spuds, according to Shimon Warshavsky, potato quality specialist at Hevel Maon's research and development department. Because there are two Israeli potato 'seasons', consumers can have Israeli potatoes on their plates all year round.

With temperatures never dropping below zero degrees centigrade (32 degrees Farenheit), there is never a problem of frost. And with rainfall as high as 250 millimeters a year, Hevel Maon grows around 150,000 tons of potatoes annually. Forty percent of the crop is exported, primarily to Western Europe and Russia, through Agrexco, Israel's largest exporter of fresh agricultural produce worldwide, from flowers to plants. The time from the field to a European dinner table is only twelve days, quicker in holiday season. The Vivaldi potato, which was originally developed by Lincolnshire, UK-based company Naturally Best, has been labelled the "slimming potato" and a "dieter's dream" in the British media.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report June 2006

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