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Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Blue Potato: From the Ancient Andes to Minnesota

Photo by Ken Korczak

My blue potatoes are ready already, although I will probably let most of them "ride" for a while before harvesting.

Blue potatoes have taken off in popularity in recent years in the U.S. They are a native species of the Andean region in Peru (as probably are most species of potato). It is known that when the Spanish Conquistadors invaded the Inca empire in 1532, they encountered the Andean natives eating blue potatoes.

The first thing most people ask about blue potatoes is: "Do they taste any different from red or white potatoes?"

As far as I am concerned, the answer is no. Some say they detect a slightly nutty flavor -- but I daresay that in a blind taste test, most folks would not be able to tell the difference.

Blue potato blossom
It's the look that is strikingly different, even after you boil them, bake them or make mash potatoes. They retain their blue color -- which is actuality looks more like purple. But ... I have to say, a bowl of mashed blue potatoes is an amazing sight. It looks like food coloring -- yet its all natural.

The blue color is produced by something called anthocyanin pigments, which also are excellent antioxidants.

The blue is also a rather small variety, at least that's my experience. But like any garden potato you grow yourself, they really seems light years better than those you buy at the store.

Note that there are many different variety of blue potato. Some have blue skins, but white interiors. Others are a combination of white and blue, and so forth.

If you are really into creating colorful dishes that please the eye, the blue potato is your best friend. They look amazing in a potato salad against the white-yellows of mustard and mayonnaise.

It's also a good idea to grow more exotic varieties like this for the sake of battling monoculture. Planting the same kind of potato over and over again is what caused the great potato famine in Ireland in the 1800s. When you mix up your verieties, you reduce chances of disease and encourage natural genetic diversity.

Because their nutrient value is slightly different than red or white potatoes, you are adding diversity to your nutritional intake. Whatever the case, I love the blue potato.


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