Picking Potatoes

September 9, 2005

No plant symbolizes the plight of industrial agriculture like the humble potato. The most well known event in its history of cultivation, the Irish potato famine of 1845 – 1849, stands as a reminder of the problems associated with one of the most prevalent practices in industrial agriculture: monoculture. In the years leading up to the famine, a high-yielding variety called Lumper was planted almost exclusively in all but the northern parts of the country. When potato blight hit, the Lumper harvest, upon which most of the population relied for sustenance, was ruined.

This staple of diets in the United States and throughout much of the world, famous for its plainness, actually comes in an amazing diversity of flavors, colors and sizes. In North America, Solanum tuberosum is the predominant species of potato, but in the Andes Mountains, home of the potato’s genetic roots, nine species and over 900 varieties are cultivated. At the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, you’ll find over 30 varieties of potato that lend themselves to an array of culinary uses. Below is a short guide to the plethora our farmers bring to the market.

A Guide to Potato Varieties

White-fleshed Potatoes

White Rose – classic, silky
Katahdin – great flavor, good for mashing or baking
Russet Norkotah – versatile, moist baker
Red Lasota – a classic red
Kennebec – great for fries
Dakota Rose – red skin, floury flavor

Yellow-fleshed Potatoes

Carola – a favorite, best masher, very versatile
Yukon Gold – great masher, a bit dry
Yellow Finn – great sautéed, moist and sweet
German Butterball – very versatile
Nicola – an heirloom with great flavor
Abby’s Gold – a smooth-skinned butterball

Purple-fleshed Potatoes

All Blue – very dry, great roasted
Purple Peruvian – blue all through, great fried
Purple Viking – great flavor, good masher

Red-fleshed Potatoes

Huckleberry – very creamy

Fingerling Potatoes

Russian Banana– rich flavor, great roasted
Rose Finn Apple – nutty, make a great potato salad
French – rich, distinctive flavor, great roasted
Princess Larate – a French favorite
Ozette – a popular heirloom, very creamy
Amandine – a new variety

Check out the vegetable seasonability chart to see a list of the Ferry Plaza’s potato farmers and the varieties they bring to the market.