Archive for February 1st, 2009

More winter treats: the Peruvian Purple Potato

When I first ordered Peruvian Purple seed potatoes, I thought of them more as a curiosity than as a real crop. I was curious about how this native of the Peruvian highlands would adapt to our own high-desert conditions. I was also aware of their very high anthocyanin content, and I’m never one to turn down a good source of antioxidants. I’m still digging them for winter use, and they are one of my most successful crops this year and fill an interesting niche in my household menu: they’re readily available when nearly everything else is dormant.
I planted mine in a strip at the side of my house, which gets very hot in the summer. I did water them but not as much as they might have liked. Even so, they flourished and looked very pretty in their season. Incidentally, this brings up the fact that much gardening information on the Web is clearly written by non-gardeners. Now that edible landscaping is hot, I see recommendations to use the potato as an ornamental, which sounds fine if you don’t know that the vegetative parts die off in late summer and look just awful. So plant them where some other big pretty plant will spill over and fill the empty space in late summer, or put them in an out-of-the-way place where you can admire them in their season and not see them as much when they die back. Do keep them weeded.
When they flowered I scrabbled under themn to look for new potatoes, as I do with all my potatoes, but didn’t find any, and thought they were probably a loss. However, in November when I dug up the space for the winter, I found a treasure trove of earth-amethysts. They were blemish-free and looked very lovely after scrubbing, with deep purple skins that glistened like jewels when wet. I left them in the ground and dug them as I needed them, and on February 1st I’m still digging them and they’re still in perfect condition. They have been completely free of disease and haven’t shown any sprouting yet.
They’re very tasty cut in chunks and roasted in nearly any kind of fat (olive oil and goose fat are probably my favorites) in a 400 degree oven with some coarse salt and a good sprinkling of chopped herbs added near the end of cooking. Chopped garlic added late in the cooking period when it won’t scorch is nice too. A hot potato salad made of chunks of Peruvian Purple boiled in salted water until tender, drained, and dressed with a vinaigrette dressing and a little chopped green onion, parsley, ands celery (plus a good dose of bacon crumbles for non-vegetarians) would be delicious and very decorative. This potato is a survivor, which is probably why it was valued as part of the Peruvian mixed potato patches. It doesn’t demand intensive care and makes do with less water than other potatoes I’ve grown. I recommend it. You can get it at Ronnigers. Formerly I recommended Seed Savers Exchange, and although they don’t have this potato for the 2010 season, I do still recommend them for almost everything else.
For more on growing potatoes. Click here