2000s Archive

Can You Dig It?

continued (page 2 of 2)

You have probably guessed that most of the potatoes I grow are not the common sorts you are likely to find in a supermarket. My rule of thumb: Why grow something that you can just as easily buy? If you belong to Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit grassroots seed organization in Decorah, Iowa, you can get any of the potatoes I have mentioned—that’s where I acquired mine. However, many produce growers have unusual potatoes, and sometimes you can pick up samples here and there just by asking. All you really need to start your own potato patch is one or two tubers, which you can then cut into quarters and plant. And by the way, if you have a potato collection that’s kept in storage in an old refrigerator (like mine), you may refer to it properly as a tuberarium. Just in case you have a guest who considers potatoes too lowbrow.

Eight Potatoes Worth Knowing

  1. All-Red
    Large, smooth tuber with cranberry-red skin and rose-pink flesh. Retains color when cooked. Multipurpose. Stores well. Midseason variety developed by Robert Lobitz of Paynesville, Minnesota, and introduced about 1984.
  2. Arran Victory
    Round, smooth tuber with bright violet skin and white flesh. Considered the Rolls-Royce of potatoes. Best when steamed then spritzed with a little Scotch whisky. Flavor improves with storage. Midseason variety developed by Donald Mackelvie of Lamlash, Isle of Arran, Scotland, and introduced in 1918.
  3. Beauty of Hebron
    Large and blocky with pink skin and white flesh. Good all-purpose potato. Early variety developed by Albert Bresee of Hubbardton, Vermont, and introduced in 1878.
  4. Bliss’s Triumph
    Large and blocky with beautiful rose-pink skin and white flesh. Very good all-purpose potato with a rich, smooth texture. Early variety introduced by B.K. Bliss & Sons of New York in 1874.
  5. Catriona
    Large, smooth, and somewhat kidney-shaped with parchment-colored skin covered with deep violet patches. Flavor of pale yellow flesh hints of toasted almonds or freshly baked bread. Similar culinary traits as Arran Victory, and considered its equal by many food experts. Midseason variety developed by Archibald Finlay of Auchtermunchty, Scotland, in 1920.
  6. Chile/Ancud
    Oblong and blocky with violet-brown skin and white flesh. Early variety with a strong mushroom flavor. Found in the 1920s near the town of Ancud on the island of Chiloé, off the coast of Chile, by Russian geneticist Nikolay Vavilov of Moscow.
  7. Négresse
    Long and narrow with blue-black skin and dark blue flesh. When cut with a knife, the raw potato exudes inky juice that stains. When boiled, potato turns blue-gray; when steamed, it holds its color. Midseason variety introduced into France from Peru about 1815.
  8. La Ratte d’ardÈche
    Long, smooth tuber usually hooked into a point at one end. Skin is parchment-colored, flesh a soft yellowish white. Being grown commercially in Oregon under the name La Ratte de Paris by Jim Huston, who first marketed Yukon Golds.Very early variety introduced in France in 1872 and now one of the cornerstones of Parisian potato cookery. —W.W.W.

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