Laurel Vista Farms

1665 Coxes Creek Road, Somerset, PA 15501 Phone: 814.443.2415 | Fax: 814.445.6376

Facts/FAQs

POTATO FACTS:

Just like apples, there are many different varieties of potatoes — many more than the gold, red, white, and russet varieties that you normally see in the grocery store.  Cornell University has the best information on potatoes, complete with variety descriptions and grower ratings:

http://vegvariety.cce.cornell.edu/main/showVarieties.php?searchCriteria=&searchIn=0&crop_id=42&sortBy=overallrating&order=DESC&sideSearch=Search

Or, just Google “Vegetable Varieties for Home Gardeners” and on the left under “Explore Varieties,” click the “crop” arrow to see a list; scroll to “Potatoes.”

Another good reference on potato varieties:

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/plants/potatoes/potato-varieties

Or, just Google “Canadian Potato Varieties.”

Note that you do not see anything officially called Idaho potato in any of these reference resources (Cornell acknowledges it unofficially by “also known as”). That’s because  there is really no potato variety called Idaho.  Most of the potatoes in US grocery stores are russet potatoes, and because most of them are grown in Idaho, people have come to use the terms Idaho and russet interchangeably.

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Color is not the best way to determine how a potato performs in cooking.  Rather, how well it works in a dish is determined by its starch component:

Waxy/low starch (e.g., red):  boiling, soups, stews, casseroles, potato salad, roasting, barbequing

—- versus

Mealy/high starch (e.g., russets):  baking, mashing, quick-frying at very high temps

Then there is the medium starch potato, generally referred to as the Eastern White (e.g., Katahdin, Kennebec, Superior).  This is the true all-purpose potato — great tasting and good performance baked, mashed, fried, soups, stews, casseroles, potato salad, or however you want to cook it.

Note that a russet is NOT an all-purpose potato, even though many recipes call for them to be used that way.  Use of russets should be limited to baking and mashing.  Because of the type of starch the russet contains (amylose), it cannot be used successfully in soups, casseroles, stews, potato salad, or in any dish that must be boiled or simmered; russets disintegrate when cooked that way.  Moreover, anything containing a russet must be eaten immediately after cooking.  Shortly after being cooked, the russet chemically changes, irreversibly altering taste and texture; leftover russets should be discarded.  (Ever been served a baked russet that sat too long?  No amount of butter or sour cream will make it taste good, and don’t even bother trying to reheat it.)

In contrast, the medium starch (amylopectin) Eastern White potato not only retains its shape any way it is cooked, it can be successfully reheated after it cools, regaining taste and texture.  Hence leftovers can be reused — mashed potatoes can be reheated or used for potato pancakes, and baked can be re-used for hash browns or frying.

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You CAN grow your own potatoes.  Good places to learn and get seed (order early, usually by March):

The Potato Garden:  www.potatogarden.com (Austin, CO)

Tucker Farms Inc:  www.tuckertaters.com (Gabriels, NY)

Wood Prairie Farm:  www.woodprairie.com (Bridgewater, ME)

Moose Tubers:  www.fedcoseeds.com/moose.htm (Moose Tubers, Waterville, ME)

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Other potato facts:

  1. Green:   Green potatoes are NOT unripe.  Potatoes turn green when they are exposed to light.  This green is called solanine and in large quantities it is a mild poison.  Cooking destroys it, but if the green is very dark it should be cut off.  A potato that is mostly green inside and out should be discarded.
  2. New Potatoes versus “B” Potatoes:  New Potatoes are about golf ball size and have been harvested before they are mature.  The skin is thin and flaky.  Usually they are a red variety but any potato can be harvested early.  New Potatoes differ from petite, or “B” Potatoes.  A mature potato plant has a cluster of potatoes, and B potatoes are the small potatoes from the cluster.
  3. Sprouts:  Potatoes are living organisms, and under the right conditions (warmth, light), they will come out of  (“break”) dormancy and start to grow.  You will see small buds sprouting in the eyes of the potato.  This does not mean that the potato has gone bad.  If the potato is firm, simply remove sprouts before cooking.  However, if the potato has sprouts over an inch long, feels soft, and looks wrinkled, it will have a different flavor than a dormant potato and should be discarded.  Most potatoes in the grocery store are treated with a chemical that retards sprouting; our Somerset Spuds are not treated with these chemicals.

FREQUENTLY ASKED POTATO QUESTIONS:

What varieties of potatoes does Laurel Vista grow?

We grow Yukon Gold, Dark Red Norland, and  white Katahdin and Superior for our Somerset Spuds branded potatoes.  We also grow fingerlings:  Russian Banana, French Fingerling, Peruvian Purple, and Rose Finn.  And, we grow specialty varieties — German Butterball (gold flesh) and Blue potatoes (All Blue and Adirondack Blue).

When and where can people buy Laurel Vista’s Somerset Spuds potatoes?

Somerset Spuds should be in stores in November, but exact timing is weather determined.  Look for them in Pittsburgh Market Districts, certain Giant Eagle stores, independent Somerset/Johnstown area grocery stores, and farmers markets such as Pittsburgh Public Market.  You can also buy at the farm.  Watch for updates on the Laurel Vista web site www.laurelvistafarms.com or check (and “Like”) the Laurel Vista facebook page.

But aren’t potatoes fattening?

Potatoes are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat.  A medium skin-on potato only has 110 calories, most of it from something called “resistant starch” that promotes colon health.  It contains a lot of other good things — 45% of MDR Vitamin C, 18% potassium, 10% Vitamin B, fiber, protein — and virtually no bad things — fat, gluten, sodium, or cholesterol.  However, French fries, potato chips, and baked potatoes loaded with toppings are fattening — not because of the potato, but because of preparation and/or additions.

How should potatoes be stored?

As potato growers, we store our potatoes in harvest bins with the dirt they grew in at temperatures 40 degrees or so to maintain dormancy and retard sprouting (we wash them right before we deliver them).  Cooking “experts” advise consumers against refrigeration because that causes the potato to develop a “sweet” flavor.  While this is true, it is also true that the sweetness reverses when the potato is at room temperature for a few hours.  What happens is that coolness changes starch to sugar and higher temperatures (55F+) changes the sugar back to starch.  So, if you will not be using all of your potatoes right away, you may actually want to refrigerate them.  Just take out what you will need for a week and keep those at room temperature.  (Some people like the sweet flavor; you may want to experiment.)