By Jeannine Taylor, Community Outreach Coordinator, Grand Traverse County Health Department
One potato. Two potato. Three potato. New potato? What in the world is a new potato?
No, they’re not a strange new breed of alien-like vegetables with spirally nodules protruding from their fluorescent green skin. They are actually any variety of young, immature potato that is harvested not long after the plant flowers, usually in the spring or summer.
So what’s the fuss all about? New potatoes have very thin skin that can sometimes be rubbed off with your fingers. They are high in moisture content and have a particularly creamy texture. Often cooked whole with the skin left on, they are well suited for boiling, steaming and roasting.
The downside is that they have a very short shelf life and should be used within a few days of harvesting. They typically cannot be stored, so you won’t find “true” new potatoes on your grocery store shelf. Baby red skinned potatoes are often confused for new potatoes, but in actuality, they have to go through a hardening process in order to be stored properly and to survive the long journey to grocery stores.
Regardless, these sweet and tasty morsels are so tender and delicately flavored they’ll melt in your mouth.
Selecting and storing
- Select firm potatoes, free from soft spots or sprouting. Some bruising is common with young vegetables; however, large squashy patches and discoloration could signal disease or rot.
- Avoid any potatoes with a greenish tint to them. New potatoes are prone to sunburn due to their thin skin, which looks like a green patch. Discard them or cut away the green patch entirely before cooking.
- Discard any new potatoes with large sprouts protruding from their eyes.
- New potatoes should come fresh from the garden and never be placed in storage. They have two to three-day shelf life and should be eaten within that time.
- Do not refrigerate.
- The potato is more universally grown than any other food crop.
- At one time, the Scots refused to eat potatoes because they weren’t mentioned in the Bible.
- The Incas used the potato to treat injuries. They also thought it made childbirth easier.
- Potatoes were often eaten aboard ships to prevent scurvy, a disease caused by a deficiency of Vitamin C.
- Eighteenth-century agronomist Antoine-August Parmentier used reverse psychology to convince the French to accept the potato as a safe food. He posted guards around potato fields during the day to prevent people from stealing them but left those same fields unguarded at night. Every night, thieves would sneak into the fields and leave with sacks of potatoes.
- Potatoes are one of the world’s most nutrient-dense foods.
- They are low in fat and calories, have zero cholesterol, and are rich in carbohydrates.
- Packed with essential vitamins and minerals, potatoes are loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamins B1 and B6, fiber, potassium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, and they’re a great source of folic acid.
- A serving of boiled new potatoes in their skins has more iron than a serving of steamed spinach.
New potato salad in red onion dressing
- 2 lbs. small new potatoes
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3⁄4 cup mayonnaise, homemade or high-quality
- 3⁄4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
- 1⁄2 cup sweet red onion, finely chopped
- 1⁄2 cup dill, minced
- Dill for garnish
Wash new potatoes under running cold water, scrubbing well enough to remove all traces of soil. Cook by boiling them until fork-tender, then cool and dry the potatoes. Transfer them to a bowl and cut into halves, quarters, or slices if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool slightly before dressing.
In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt, onion and dill and blend well. Pour over the warm potatoes and toss gently to mix thoroughly. Garnish with herb springs and serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.