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Sunday, September 25, 2011

It's potato season!

As you shop at the grocery store each week, you may or may not have a sense of the seasons.

If you are paying attention, you will notice that in late May through September, there are sizable displays of aromatic fresh tree fruits like peaches, nectarines, and pluots. In the next few weeks, those displays will be reduced or eliminated, as the California growing season ends.

And taking their places will be all kinds of apples and pears. In late August and September, all across the country, apple harvest is taking place. It takes a few weeks for the harvest, washing, polishing and packing process. Then they are shipped to supermarkets across the country. I can’t wait to walk into my local store and find my new apple favorite, Honeycrisp.

But if you walk past the potato tables, you probably won’t notice any big changes. There seem to be the same piles of 5 lb. russets, 10 lb. russets, whites, reds, etc. You may think that potatoes do not have seasons.

But that could not be further from the truth. Actually, this is the time of year when some of my favorite potatoes are freshly harvested and near peak of season.

I’m talking about the fingerling potatoes, baby and little potatoes. They come in many shapes and sizes. From outside skin that is yellow, red, purple or white (or a mix of several colors), to internal flesh that is white, yellow, red or purple.

They may be perfectly round, or flat and round, or they can be as long as your finger -- thus the name “fingerling.”

There are many things to love about these smaller potatoes: They are more bite-sized, faster cooking, and many have unique flavors and textures.

One of my favorite potatoes is the Organic Klamath Pearl Potato, which was developed in cooperation with the University of California and is grown in the wetlands near the Oregon-California border. I recently learned that they have just been harvested and our first shipment of the season will arrive at our warehouse on Monday!


A few years ago, when we first introduced this potato, our grower personally delivered samples to about a dozen chefs in the San Francisco Bay area. Each chef immediately called us wanting to offer them on their menu, because they were small and round, did not soften or get mushy when boiled, yet were fantastic mashed, and had a delicate, nutty flavor.

The perfect potato.

Oh, and did I mention they are organically grown?

And, as with all my product stories – the grower we work with is a delightful individual. I have spent a lot of time with Dan – and we still laugh about our first meal together. We were having breakfast together at a produce convention and it was my turn to order. I ordered an egg white omelet and requested, “Instead of potatoes, can I get fruit?”

I then got a horrified look from Dan… I had just refused my host’s potatoes! Fortunately, he was very understanding and I now make sure to order potatoes FIRST before the rest of my meal.

I hope when you walk by the potato display at your favorite store, you stop to look at all the variety and try a new potato. Dan will be very happy you did.

Karen

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