BY DEBRA J. MORRIS
Who can resist a fluffy baked potato or a creamy potato gratin? Few foods are as versatile, delicious, or as nutritious as the potato. A member of the night shade family, it was once thought to be poisonous. We can thank Sir Walter Raleigh for debunking this superstition by planting them on property he owned in Ireland. The Irish began growing and eating potatoes in large quantities, and today hundreds of varieties are grown around the world. Here are just a few varieties to choose from and how to use them:
Russet (Burbank): The workhorse of potatoes. It is oblong, russet brown in color with netted or somewhat rough skin. It is primarily used for baking and for French fries because of its high starch content which makes it fluffy when cooked.
Red potatoes: Round red potatoes have a rosy red skin with white flesh. Red Norlands, Pontiac, Red Lasoda, Sangre, and Larouge, are the main varieties. Chiefton, Viking, and Red Ruby are less common. Their waxy texture makes them perfect for boiling but they can be used for any cooking purpose. Cook them unpeeled, and mash, or use in a potato salad.
White potatoes: Round whites such as the Superior are light to medium brown in color, and are an all-purpose potato used mostly for boiling and baking. Long whites such as the White Rose are grown in California during the spring and summer. They have an oval shape with a thin, light tan, almost translucent skin and are good for boiling and roasting as well as in potato salads.
Yellow-fleshed potatoes: Yellow-fleshed potatoes such as Yukon Gold seem richer and less in need of butter than others. They are best for boiling and preparing in potato salad.
Blue (purple) potatoes: They are considered somewhat of a novelty, although they’ve been around for thousands of years. The outside is deep blue or purple and the flesh ranges from blue to white.
Fingerlings: These small potatoes are about the length of your pinkie finger and are wonderful for roasting and tossed together with other vegetables like green beans and root vegetables.
New potatoes: These are a variety of young potatoes that haven’t had time to convert their sugar fully to starch. They have a crisp waxy texture with thin, undeveloped wispy skins. Their small size makes them perfect to cook whole boiled or pan-roasted. They are excellent for potato salad because they retain their shape after being cooked and cut.
Sweet Potatoes: The sweet potato is in the morning glory family. It is an enlarged storage root that comes in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. California grows both “dry flesh” and “moist flesh” varieties. The “moist flesh” type is sometimes referred to as a yam, and the “dry flesh” as a sweet potato. They are both sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are native to Central America and Peru. A true yam is native to Africa. The term “yam” came to be synonymous with sweet potatoes because Louisiana used the term to market their moist, orange sweet potatoes.
All these potatoes can be found at your Martinez Farmers Market. Stop by Guzman Farms from Denair for fingerling, red, Russian Blue, and Yukon Gold potatoes. Halog Farms based in South San Francisco has fantastic sweet potatoes for baking.
The Martinez Farmers Market is located at 700 Main St, Martinez, CA 94553 and open on Sunday’s from 9AM – 1PM.