“You must take the little potato with the big potato” or “That’s no small potatoes!”
There are around 200 varieties of potatoes grown in the United States and 20 million metric tons of potatoes sold. According to Cornell Cooperative Extension, New York State ranks 12th in production with an average of 27,000 acres planted. The yield in NYS alone is $63,000,000. Potatoes rank as the number one vegetable in economic value. That’s no small potatoes! They grow very well in the Northeastern states because of the favorable soil, ideal growing conditions, plentiful water and an industry committed to advancing both the research and technology. The long, warm days and cool nights ensure maximum productivity and consistency and the cold, hard winters help keep pets and disease at bay.
Of the 200 varieties grown, each fits into one of seven potato categories: russet, red, white, yellow, blue/purple, fingerling & petite. Within each category, each variety has certain characteristics: Waxy, floury & new.
A waxy potato has a creamy, firm texture when cooked, thanks to their low starch and high water content. They keep their shape when cooked, making them ideal for boiling, steaming and roasting,
A floury potato has a low water content and high starch. Sugars convert to starch during the maturation process in the field. When cooked, they have a dry, fluffy texture which is accentuated by baking and mashing, They are also good for frying as the low sugar levels mean less chance of burning.
The new potato refers to any potato harvested before reaching full size.
Let’s get to know the categories:.
Russets are the choice potato for baking or frying because they develop a crispy crust and stay dry on the inside. They make light & fluffy mashed potatoes and seem to be the choice potato for baking. However, they require copious amounts of butter & sour cream to cut the dryness due to their low moisture content.
Major varieties: Burbank, Norkotah, Ranger, Goldrush & Centennial
Yellow potatoes range in size from marble to large, round to oblong. Light tan skin with yellow to golden flesh. Slightly waxy, velvety and moist texture. They have a subtly sweet, rich and buttery flavor with a medium sugar content. The naturally yellow color and the creamy texture make them an excellent choice for baked, roasted or mashed with little or no butter needed.
Major varieties: Yukon Gold, Yellow Finn, Agate, Santina & Bintje
Small to medium in size. These little gems have thin, red skin and white, waxy & moist flesh. Slightly sweet in flavor with a medium sugar content. They stay firm throughout cooking whether roasted, stewed or boiled. The vivid red skin adds appealing color to potato salad and side dishes. The moist, sweet texture is divine mashed or baked.
Major varieties: Chieftain, Norland, Pontiac & Ruby
White potatoes are small to medium in size, and round to oblong in shape. Their skin is light tan or white, and the flesh is pure white. The skins are very delicate and thin, but the inside flesh has medium starch qualities giving them a dense, slightly creamy texture. Sweet, mild flavor comes from the low sugar content. These beauties hold their shape after cooking and the thin skins add perfect texture to velvety mashed potatoes. No need to peel. They also make very good french fries.
Major varieties: White Rose, Cascade, Superior, Kennebec & Cobbler
The skins of these potatoes come in a range of colors from blue to deep purple to red, these small to medium potatoes also come in many shapes. They range from oblong to round to fingerling. The true magic is in the flesh colors though: blue, purple, lavender, red, pink or even white. They are moist and firm, have a nutty, earthy flavor and a low sugar content. This potato retains its shape while cooking. A mixture of these potatoes adds color and delicious flavor to potato salads. To keep the colors vibrant when cooking, microwave, steam or bake. Blue & red potatoes have 2-3 x’s more antioxidant than white. They contain cancer fighting anthocyanins and are an excellent source of vitamin C,and are a good source for of fiber and iron.
Major varieties: Purple Peruvian, Purple Majesty, Blue & Red Adirondack
Fingerling potatoes are 2-5 inches long, finger shaped or oblong. The skin colors vary from red, yellow, orange, purple or white. The flesh can be red, purple, yellow, white and at times streaked with reds or blues. They have a firm, waxy texture and the complex flavors are buttery, nutty and earthy with a medium sugar content. Pan frying and roasting brings out their robust taste.
Major varieties: LaRatte, Banana, Pinto, Rose Finn Apple
Think of these as “baby potatoes”. They have the same skin and flesh color as if they were fully grown as well as the same shape, texture and sugar content. However, their flavor is more concentrated. Considered to be low quality, yet they fetch a high price.
Potatoes are a living food. They continue to undergo metabolic processes after harvest making proper handling and storage very important. Ideal storage temperature is between 45-50 degrees with high humidity, 95%. Do not let the potatoes get wet. They require air circulation to limit spoilage by allowing them to respire. To avoid flavor transfer, do not store near apples, pears, garlic or onions. Keep them out of excessive light so they do not turn green. Turning green is a response to light exposure. It is a potatoes natural defense against insects, disease and herbivores. This green is solanine, a glycoalkaloid poison found in species of the nightshade family. Potato leaves, stems and shoots are naturally high in glycoalkaloids, however in the tubers, which grown under the ground in darkness, the solanine remains at a safe level. Although toxic, a normal sized human would need to consume vast quantities of green potatoes to be lethal.
Here we are, in 2018 and modern potato growers are facing the exact same hurdles they faced when the potato was first introduced to Europe and North America back in the 1740’s including Colorado potato beetle, late blight & weed pressure. However, the arsenal of chemicals to fight back has become a billion dollar industry. According to the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program, 37 different pesticides are found on conventional potatoes. Conventional growers spray chemicals to kill the potato vines to aid in harvest by desiccating all surrounding plant material and to condition the tuber to reduce bruising and skinning during harvest. Storage potatoes are treated with a sprout inhibitor, Chlorpropham, to lengthen dormancy. Root vegetables easily absorb pesticides, herbicides and fungicides that wind up in the soil. Keep this in mind when you are enjoying those perfectly shaped, golden french fries from the fast food restaurant. It’s so important to know where your food comes from.
4 medium white potatoes ( not peeled), chopped into 1” cubes
1 medium sweet potato (peeled), chopped into 1” cubes
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. sour cream
Salt to taste
Place both white & sweet potato in medium saucepan and fill with cold water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes (or until a knife easily pierces the potatoes). Drain, then put the potatoes back into the pot. Add the butter and let it melt, then mash them together with a masher until they are creamy. Add salt & sour cream. Enjoy!
Vegan German Potato Salad
2-4 medium blue potatoes (do not peel) chopped to 1” pieces
2 medium red potatoes (do not peel), chopped to 1” pieces
2 medium yellow potatoes (do not peel), chopped to 1” pieces
3 shallots, diced
6 pieces of vegan bacon
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs. vegan butter
1 Tbs. maple syrup
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup water
Boil potatoes until tender, drain and set aside. In a large skillet, saute the shallots on the butter until golden brown. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar, then add the water & maple syrup and let simmer until it has reduced in half. Chopp the vegan bacon and add to the pan with the potatoes. Gently toss until they are coated. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.
Roasted potatoes with fresh tarragon
3 lbs. Fingerling potatoes (not peeled) chopped into 1” pieces
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp coarse sea salt
4 Tbs. fresh, chopped tarragon (or 1 tsp. dried)
Preheat oven to 375
Toss potatoes in olive oil and salt in a roasting pan. Bake for 20 minutes, uncovered. When tender, set aside to cool slightly and add the chopped tarragon. Simply delicious.