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The Green Dish: Pretty Potatoes

The Green Dish: Pretty Potatoes

Ever since I had the pleasure of meeting my first Yukon Gold potato I have been a bit of a one-potato pony. It was in the early 1990s at the Union Square greenmarket in New York City, and I was just very excited by the vendor’s enthusiasm about these golden tubers. After taking it for a spin in my kitchen I was smitten by its buttery flesh and lovely hue, there was no turning back. Over the years, although I have flirted with a number of sweet potatoes, all other potatoes have paled in comparison.

But I know there is more to the potato family than my tried and trusty Yukon, so this past weekend at the greenmarket I studied the goods at the potato lady’s stand. What if the All Blue is too dry? What if the Yellow Finn is too mealy? But I liked these varieties because their color runs from their skin through their flesh, assuring a nice blast of antioxidants along with their good looks. Feeling adventurous (funny, adventurous used to mean hopping on a midnight bus from Istanbul to the center of Turkey), I scooped up two All Blues, two Adirondack Reds, and threw in a Yellow Finn for good measure. And I thought, I’ll have a little potato party for myself.

I assumed that I was buying some ancient heirloom potatoes, varieties that had been around long before the ubiquitous Idaho potato ruled the roost. I am easily charmed by a vegetable’s heritage. So I poked around a bit for some history, and this is what I found. The All Blue variety is also commonly known as Congo and Blue Marker (or less commonly and more poetically as Purple Congo, Russian Blue or Himalayan Black). Although its exact parentage is unknown, it is assumed to have originated in either the United States or Scotland in the 19th century. I like that. It is also the potato used to make Terra Chips’ famed blue potato chips.

As for Yellow Finn, all I could find is that it is a very old European variety—good enough. What really surprised me? Those beautiful Adirondack Red ones. Formerly called T17-2, with a parentage of N40-2 crossbred with Q155-3. Oh so not romantic. I know that vegetables have been crossbred for ages, and I even discovered that my sacred Yukon Gold is a 28-year old crossbreed (although its parents have real names). But that the lyrical Adirondack Red was born in the laboratory of Cornell University in 2004 just takes some of the sexiness away for me. Anyway, they were still pretty (really) good, and pink mashed potatoes? Well, it’s hard to deny the charm there.

Baked Blue Potato Chips
I love the way All Blue potatoes taste baked when thinly, but not too thinly, sliced. Not crispy like a traditional potato chip, they are crisp on the edges and a little tenderly chewy in the middle—which lets their naturally sweet flavor sing. These are beautiful to behold, and would take nicely to some creative seasoning.

2 All Blue potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Scrub potatoes, but don’t peel. Slice with a knife into 1/8 inch slices and toss in olive oil to coat. Bake on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes, until edges are browned. (Check on them though, as they go from perfect to over cooked in the blink of an eye.) Salt to taste.

Baked Yellow Finns
These are just a first class baking potato, what else can I say? Bold, rich, sweet, earthy, nutty—they taste exactly like a potato should taste, with a tender and creamy texture to boot. I don’t have any special tips for baking, other than: 350F degrees until tender (an hour, or so) and then open the potato as soon as it is done so that it doesn’t steam itself and become dense.

Vegan Pink Mashed Potatoes with Ginger and Cardamom
So although Adirondack Red potatoes are the new kids on the block, they are, really, so pretty—with their striated pink and violet flesh. And since they are designer potatoes, so to speak, they have been designed with flavor and versatility in mind. They are a lovely, tasty, and an easy potato to work with. Once I saw the lavender-pink hue of these when boiled, I couldn’t help but reach for some exotic accouterments.

2 Adirondack Red potatoes
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 cup hemp (or soy) milk
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon chopped candied ginger, finely chopped
salt to taste

Scrub potatoes and cut into chunks. (I always leave the nutrient-rich peel on.) Place them in a pot of boiling water and boil until tender, then drain. Add all other ingredients and mash with a potato masher until smooth and perfectly lavender.

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

7 comments

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2:15AM PDT on Aug 4, 2011

Thanks for the article.

2:20PM PST on Dec 29, 2010

I can't wait to find the A-Red spuds - recipe sounds yummy! I'm vegan (plus Celiac and legume-allergic) and love finding ideas for things I can actually eat.

8:15AM PDT on Aug 19, 2010

I have tried just about every kind of potato I can find. I just plain love potatoes. But, I have to say that the very best potatoes I have ever eaten were those I had in Germany. They remind me of the Yukon Gold, which have become popular within the last few years. They are so rich and creamy, that they put the regular Idaho/Russet potato to shame. I would like to know, however, why Yukon Golds are so much more expensive than the Idaho/Russet varieties.

12:52AM PST on Nov 22, 2008

Interesting, being as my South American friends say that all Potatoes are from there. So, none of those potatoes are the originals "papa amarilla" or whatever?
Please sign my petiton: for Obama http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/call-on-obama-to-include-alternatives-in-health-plan
Thanks

5:30AM PST on Nov 17, 2008

Katrin,

I'm with you on keeping the nutrients in so I eat raw as much as possible (not for potatoes though!) Have you tried steaming potatoes? Chop them small just as you described, but put them in a steamer with the water under rather than over them - they will cook much faster with steam and not have to be drained before mashing.

4:57PM PDT on Apr 28, 2008

If you want to keep as many nutrients as possible in your (mashed) potatoes, only use as little water as possible to avoid having to drain them (most nutrients are in the water after boiling). I cut my potatoes in fairly small pieces and then barely cover them with water. Just stir a little more often than you usually would to avoid burning.

3:08PM PDT on Apr 23, 2008

thank you mellissa.what a great infomative article on the ever so abundent and nutritious potato.i can't wait to see if our local safeway or natural food markets carry them.i really want to try them out,my mouth is watering already.jim,from otis,oregon.

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