Most people don’t buy local potatoes. They are everywhere in the grocery, and easy to buy and store. You can buy them fresh, canned, frozen, dried, as well as already fried or cooked with other foods.
Everyone in America knows what a potato is. It’s our most popular “vegetable”, after all. We buy them already processed more than we buy them fresh.
Potatoes are vegetables, but they are starchy and usually more of a carbohydrate than a vegetable. They go with everything, and local potatoes are delicious.
Local Potato Flavor
Since we have all eaten potatoes at some point, we know what they taste like. Some are starchy, some are sweeter. You can find mealy or dry potatoes, or waxy and creamy ones. They come in several colors, sizes, and textures.
New potatoes are immature potatoes. They have thin skins, and a delicate, sweet and creamy taste. They don’t last long, so buying local potatoes when you want new ones is a must.
Choose your potatoes based on what you plan to make with them. You’ll find starchy potatoes, waxy potatoes, and all purpose ones out there to try.
Starchy potatoes are best for baking and frying because they are absorbent. Waxy ones hold their shape better, so are good for soups and salads. Use all purpose local potatoes for roasting, mashing, or baking.
Growing Local Potatoes
Potatoes, like all root vegetables, grow underground. Unlike sweet potatoes, their leaves are not edible.
Most potatoes we eat are clones of each other. They are grown from seed potatoes, meaning a potato is cut up and planted. This produces a replica of the planted potato.
Potatoes can be grown from seed, but you have to start the plant 6 weeks earlier, usually inside, so that the plant can grow to transplant size.
Potato plants will grow tomato-like fruits on them that are poisonous to humans. They have a lot of toxic solanine in them, the same chemical that turns potatoes green. Inside are potato seeds.
Growing your own potato seeds will create a new potato plant that doesn’t resemble the parent. Usually only plant breeders grow from seed.
Potatoes are easy to grow in small spaces if you grow them in the right container. They are also cheap to buy, so you may prefer buying local potatoes instead.
Buying and growing local potatoes means you have the option of trying different varieties. New potatoes are harvested soon after the plant flowers, but harvesting them may compromise later potatoes.
A month or two later, mature potatoes are ready when the plant begins to die back. They take about 80-100 days, so look for local potatoes at the end of summer into fall.
Since potatoes store so well, you may also see local potatoes available all winter. Or you can buy enough for yourself and store them at home.
Well mulched, your home grown potatoes can also stay in the ground all winter in Maryland.
Local Potato Varieties
Though potatoes fall into categories of starchy, waxy, and in-between, there is a huge variety within those classifications.
You can find big and small potatoes. Long and thin, or round potatoes. Look for russeted (rough) skins, or thinner skins. Find them as brown, yellow, or white, as well as purple and red. Some are red or purple all the way through!
Some potatoes will be sweeter than others, and others more starchy. Ask your farmer how best to cook your local potatoes. Look towards texture, as a waxy potato will hold its shape and a starchy one will fall apart.
A mix of colored potatoes can make a beautiful presentation on your table. Roasted red, purple, and yellow potatoes are gorgeous together. You can mash purple or red potatoes as well for a unique side dish.
Preserving Local Potatoes
Potatoes are great for storing in a root cellar. If you grow them yourself, you can leave them in the ground until it gets cool enough to put them in a root cellar, or try mulching them in the ground.
Potatoes will also last for weeks at room temperature, making them easy to buy and store short term even if you don’t have a root cellar.
Commericial potatoes may have been stored for some time before reaching you, so they may not last as long at home. You may prefer to freeze or dry them if you found a deal and want to save them.
In addition, they say dirty potatoes store longer. That may be because wet potatoes rot. Still, store potatoes are usually quite clean, so they may not last as long.
Freezing potatoes is easy to do, but requires blanching them first. You can partially cook them, then use them for frying and roasting later. Roasted frozen potatoes may cook up extra crunchy.
Raw potatoes don’t freeze well because they turn mushy, watery, or grainy.
Mashed potatoes can be frozen as well, and the fatty ingredients in them will help preserve their texture. Scalloped or potato gratins can be made as is, partially cooked, frozen, then recooked later.
Potato soups do not freeze well. The potatoes may become dry because the absorb water, then turn grainy when defrosted. In addition, dairy based soups separate.
You may can potatoes, but they require a pressure cooker. You can dehydrate potatoes as well. Both of these methods will give you shelf stable potatoes that can work in many recipes without a lot of changes in flavor or texture.
Freezing potatoes means you have a chance to create quick options for later meals. Canning, drying, or using a root cellar means that your local potatoes are ingredients for later recipes.
Local Potato Recipes
There are lots of recipes out there for potatoes. They can be mashed, roasted, added to soups, fried, made into pancakes, or simply baked.
Mashed potatoes can be made out of any type of potato. Use starchy ones if you like them light and fluffy. Use waxier ones for dense and creamy. You can add the skins, or mash them chunky or smooth. Try boiling them with garlic cloves and mash the cloves in as well.
Mashed potatoes can be made with milk, butter, cream cheese, or other flavorful fats. Add herbs, garlic, or other seasonings that you like. Take leftovers and freeze them or make potato pancakes.
Small potatoes can be made into crispy smashed potatoes. Starchy potatoes are fluffy, while waxier ones are creamy.
Did you Know?
The Irish famine began in 1845, and was due to a potato blight that destroyed up to three-quarters of the potato crops over seven years. The Irish diet at the time was heavily potato-based.
Potatoes are native to the Andes in South America. In Bolivia, you can find lots of varieties of potatoes, and they are added to many dishes. They also eat chuño, which are freeze dried dehydrated potatoes.
More than half the vegetables we eat are tomatoes and potatoes. When eating at home, we eat potato chips more than any other type. At restaurants, over half our potato dishes are fried.
However you eat potatoes, it’s best to eat them freshly prepared, using healthy fats and dairy. Potatoes are very nutritious, and can be enjoyed in much healthier ways than how the average American eats.
Buy some local potatoes this fall. Look for interesting varieties, and ask your farmer how she prepares them. Add them to a special meal, and know you are eating healthy local potatoes and supporting your farmer!