Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Potatoes in the News

Once again, where Chimpanzee Tea Party leads, The New York Times inevitably follows:
In 1904 New York State grew 435,000 acres of potatoes. This year there are about 17,000 acres, most of them planted with starchy varieties by large growers in western New York who mainly supply potato chip makers.

But potatoes are gaining popularity at farmers’ markets and farm stands in eastern New York, Mr. Mishanec’s territory. Many are varieties Cornell has released in the last 15 years. In addition to Keukas, they include another firm yellow potato, the Lehigh; Adirondack Reds and Blues; and two white varieties, Salem and Eva.

These varieties are moister and waxier, have more sugar and brown more than russets. While many cooks like russets and their starchy fluffiness for mashing, creamy Evas and Salems are just as good. All the varieties are great for roasting, boiling and casseroles.

Mr. Mishanec started proselytizing in 2005 by giving 200 pounds each of eight varieties to the Schenectady County Community College’s culinary arts program to evaluate. Armed with their results and a marketing grant, he then gave potatoes to more than 60 restaurants from Plattsburgh, N.Y., to the lower Hudson Valley, hoping to spark demand.

I'm actually not entirely sure what specific varieties my pretty potatoes were, as I didn't ask... I called the purple ones "Purple Majesty" simply because that's the name that popped up when I Googled "purple potatoes"... but it's certainly possible that Chase's potatoes were "Adirondack Blues" or whatever.

While the pretty colors makes them seem to be simply a novelty, apparently they are specially bred to survive in a harsher climate than your typical Yukon Gold... and they have unique characteristics that makes them better or worse for certain preparations.

As an aside, the "Pommes de Terre Boulangère" looks solid and worth trying/adapting.