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What's wrong with potatoes in America?


General Discussion 25

What's wrong with potatoes in America?

lucia | Sep 9, 2003 10:00 AM

I have a serious case of potato envy. Just got back from a month in Lincolnshire, England, a place where potatoes matter. With most meals, at home or out, people serve a huge bowl of boiled, buttered potatoes, and a discussion ensues over the flavor, variety, comparison to other potatoes of this year and other years. Everyone knows whether they’re Ulster Prince, Pink Fir Apple, British Queen, Picasso, etc. And the potatoes taste great. People don’t buy them unless they taste great. Lincolnshire potatoes are fantastic.

So here I am, home in upstate NY farm country, and the potatoes are all either “russet” “new” “white” or Yukon Gold. (And the so-called “new” potatoes are very rarely new—they’re just mystery waxy varieties.) Okay, McEnroe Organic farmstand has Russian Banana fingerlings as well. None of these has any flavor. Yukon Golds can be okay if they are kept right, but they don’t get near the flavor of English varieties. The whole Yukon Gold hype is just ridiculous—in the 80s all of a sudden American chefs latched on to this one, easy-to-grow, early maturing okay-tasting variety as a big deal. They really aren’t that good.

And the supermarkets all wet the potatoes so they go moldy and leave them out in the daylight so they go green. Even recipes in American potato-oriented cookbooks just call for either russets or waxy.

I’ve tried to grow my own potatoes from Ronninger’s seed potatoes—Kennebec, Yukons, Yellow Finn, and Green Mountain. Unfortunately I don’t have great potato soil or enough water to grow good potatoes. I’m stumped. How come even the good farmer’s markets and farmstands have cruddy potatoes?

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