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
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.