We planted potatoes in early May. My Irish ancestors may well have planted about the same time of year that we did. They would have planted a variety with the unappealing name of Irish Lumper. But it fit their needs because it yielded lots of potatoes while growing in Western Ireland’s soggy and poor soils.
Here, we are blessed with well-drained soils that have lots of nutrients and biological liveliness. These soils are great for potato growing. We don’t grow Lumpers but we do grow a wide variety of potatoes including the Red Norland, Red Pontiac, Yukon Gold, True Blue, Adirondack Blue, and Ama Rosa.
There’s something else of a potato nature I’ve only seen in a photo. It was a plate of mashed Adironack Blues with a dollop of melted yellow cheese placed artfully on one of the swirls of potato. My friend Val says that blue potatoes are unsettling to her. I understand the comfort food thing and the beauty of a snowy white mound of mashed potatoes on your plate. If your mom’s been gone a while, the vision of those steaming white potatoes can sit her beaming vision right across the table from you purring, “Eat up now honey, and we’ll have pie for desert.”
We’ve never mashed Adirondak Blues, but in the photo on the Internet they were a delicate violet color topped by a pastel yellow. Now my mom once made baked Alaska with delicate green ice cream filling and a golden meringue for St. Patrick’s Day. It was a masterpiece of imagination, timing and presentation. Because of that memory I do believe mom would have been delighted by violet-colored mashed potatoes – bless her saintly memory.
Potatoes are actually quite visual for all their humility. Take the Red Norland, for example. It’s descended from the Norland of North Dakota. Those wiley North Dakota plant breeders wanted something a little more eye catching to capture the early potato crowd for that summer potato salad and baked beans. So they took the earliness of the Norland and crossed it with some flashy red-skinned genetics and came up with the lovely little Red Norland. Red Norlands have a pretty small yield but when you scrub them up and display them nicely, customers don’t mind paying a little extra for those tender and delicate new potatoes. But my favorite thing about Red Norlands is when you cut them open right after you dig and wash them. The wet skins are extra-red, and when the spuds are cut open, they make a crisp cracking sound like when you open a water melon. And there they lay on the cutting board; snowy white flesh and almost lipstick red skin. I could just eat ‘em.
Speaking of red, did I ever tell you about the Ama Rosa fingerling potato that we plant? It’s red. I mean red through and through. It makes beautiful, pink mashed potatoes. I wonder what mom would have thought. Fingerlings are long and fairly narrow potatoes. They are generally smaller than even a Red Norland. My friend Ray brought some from Germany that had golden flesh like the Lumper. My theory is that fingerling potatoes are more closely related to the wild and original potatoes that the Native people found in the South American mountains thousands of years ago. Those people were the first potato breeders. They also used to make something called chunyo. It’s freeze dried potatoes, and it comes in either black or white. I saw a picture on the Internet. It doesn’t quite live up to violet mashed potatoes, and I don’t think mom or Val would like them.