2017-07-13 / From The Garden

New Potatoes are Not So New

By Cynthia Gibson

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Did you know that Rhode Island is a leading state for growing commercial potatoes? It’s because we have the right soil, which is crucial for anything to grow.

While strolling the produce aisles in the grocery store, you’ll see bags of tiny red, purple, white and yellow potatoes. They are usually named “new potatoes.” The truth is they are simply young potatoes. There is no variety called new potato! They should really be called “early potatoes.”

Conditions are ideal for growing these tubers. The plants can grow to two feet high if you have planted the potato seeds in April or May. These early potatoes will be ready to dig in the next couple of weeks. Look for purple or white flowers on the plants.

I always buy seed potatoes at Agway in Portsmouth, because they have a great selection of the old standards like Katahdin to Kennebec, along with many of the new fad purple and hot pink potatoes.

The buried spuds are six inches to a foot underground. Gently dig around the base of the plants until reaching the roots and tenderly pull out the small sweet nuggets. These young potatoes have a silk-like skin, so they can be roasted or boiled and eaten with the skin on. Since we are in the outdoor grilling season, make packets of heavy duty tin foil, place potatoes inside, drizzle with olive oil, season with a hint of salt and pepper, and then pop onto the grill. Cook for about 30 minutes. No need to cover their earthy taste with garlic or onion, as it will overpower these tasty tubers. Add a favorite fragrant herb to the mix with an excellent olive oil, and you will not need salt or pepper.

Another small tuber that has become quite a hit the past few years is the Russian “La Ratte” fingerling potato, a golden sweet elongated skinny potato that is fun to grow and great to grill, but you have to wait until fall to harvest them. So, go for the early potatoes now!

Old Fashioned Potato Salad with Early Potatoes

Wash potatoes before placing into boiling water. Cook until they can be split with a fork, about 12 minutes (depending upon how many you are boiling).

I use an old-fashioned salad dressing, called “Salad Cream,” which is sometimes the brunt of British jokes, but is wonderful in the right dishes. It is a yellow, sweet creamy mayonnaise.

In any recipe of your choice substitute half of the mayonnaise or salad dressing with Salad Cream. For an extra fresh taste, add a bit of chopped dill from your herb garden. Add a tiny bit of finely chopped onion, salt and pepper to taste and your salad is ready.

Chill in the refrigerator for two hours before serving.

Cooking tip: After the potatoes are cooked and drained, do not put them in the refrigerator. Make the salad while the potatoes are still warm.

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