“None of the top five plants eaten by people — wheat, corn, rice, potatoes and soybeans — can tolerate salt,” agricultural experts Edward P. Glenn, J. Jed Brown and James W. O’Leary wrote 16 years ago, in a definitive Scientific American article. “Expose them to seawater, and they droop, shrivel and die within days.”
Now that scientific principle has been cracked — by a Dutch potato that drinks in salt and doesn’t break a sweat. A researcher and a farmer in the Netherlands teamed up to experiment with crops that could thrive in seawater. They set up shop on the island of Texel, a land rich with salt marshes. Along the way, they met an elderly Dutch farmer with an encyclopedic knowledge of thousands of potato varieties. Together, they created the salt-tolerant potato.
If you’re thinking this means a future of pre-salted veggies, hold it right there.
“What we find is that, if you tease a plant with salt, it compensates with more sugar,” says Dr. Argen de Vos, the researching half of the duo. “You’d have to eat many many kilos of potatoes before you’d exceed your recommended salt intake.”