The Incredible Edible Potato: Unusual Varieties Found at St. Louis Farmer’s Markets
Some tips to consider when buying the spuds at the grocery store: avoid potatoes that have a green color to them. This “greening” is caused by excessive exposure to light. The green portions contain the alkaloid solanin, which is poisonous in large amounts. Also avoid overly sprouted and shriveled potatoes because they have probably exceeded their shelf life. Potatoes come in three categories: “new” potatoes, general-purpose potatoes, and baking potatoes. “New’ potatoes are best when boiled. They are harvested before the skins have “set” and because they are immature, they may be skinned during handling. Most new potatoes come to market between January and September. General-purpose potatoes, both round and long types, are the most commonly used. They are boiled, fried, baked, and used in casseroles and soups. Baking potatoes are used for their baking quality. The most common baking potato is the Russet Burbank. A general rule of thumb is that white potatoes like Russets have a dry skin and high starch and are fluffy inside when cooked. Red potatoes, on the other hand, have a moist skin and low starch and are better for boiling, steaming, and roasting.
Potatoes are an important source of complex carbohydrates, vitamins C and B6, and quite a few of the minerals. With the skins left on, they are a rich source of potassium and high in fiber. They are low in sodium and virtually fat free.
For most Americans, their culinary experience may be limited to the red potato and the Russet, but what about all these other varieties that have been popping up at the supermarket and farmer’s markets around town? Take the Rose Gold potato. It has the flavor of a Yukon Gold, but a much higher moisture content. Here are a few more varieties of potatoes that you can find here around the St. Louis area:
The Purple Peruvian: The flesh is purplish blue in color and they are ideal for roasting, boiling, and frying. Their unusual color also makes them good to use as an ornamentation in fall food baskets, etc.
The Kennebec has an off white color and is excellent for making potato chips or French fries. You can also bake or boil them.
Fingerling: This potato gets its name from being long and narrow in shape. These are ideal for roasting, steaming, and boiling. Try a few slices raw on your favorite salad.
The common and not-so-common potato is not only one of the most popular vegetables, but it is also one of the most versatile. The only limit in preparing them is your imagination!