Potatoes for planting and eating March 24, 2008Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, recipes.
Tags: potatoes, Wood Prairie Farm, best potato salad recipe, planting potatoes
Silence Dogood here. As potato-planting season approaches, our friend Ben and I are expecting the arrival of seed potatoes from Wood Prairie Farm, a small but phenomenal organic potato-growing operation in Bridgewater, Maine. (Prairies in Maine?! Go figure.) We first stumbled on Wood Prairie this winter while reading an article on ‘King Harry’, a new pest-resistant potato from Cornell’s breeding program. (Ack—I can’t remember which magazine featured the article, but I think it was Mother Earth News.) There weren’t many sources for ‘King Harry’, but Wood Prairie Farm was one of them.
One quick look online (www.woodprairie.com) and we were hooked. Wood Prairie Farm is definitely our kind of place—small and passionate about what they’re doing and offering. For those who’d rather cook than garden, they offer an incredible selection of gourmet organic potato varieties, special types of organic wheat, spelt, corn, rye, and oats, numerous healthful bread and pancake mixes, organic sprouting seeds and equipment, organic cheeses from Neighborly Farms in Vermont, organic nuts, organic dried fruits, Maine maple syrup, and much, much more. For those who, like me and our friend Ben, love to garden and cook, they offer organic wheat and oat seed, carefully chosen organic veggie and herb seeds, certified organic seed potatoes, organic supplies, and on and on. Their colorful, personable catalogue offers descriptions, recipes, tips, and lots of hard-won, first-hand experience, and should be on every gardener’s shelf. You even get $5 off your first order! Thank you, Jim and Megan Gerritsen.
As you might imagine, our friend Ben and I didn’t leave our Wood Prairie adventure empty-handed. In addition to ‘King Harry’, we purchased seed potatoes (despite its name, this is not actual potato seed, but small potatoes that you cut up to plant, leaving several sprouts or “eyes” on each piece, or plant whole) of ‘RoseGold’, ‘Rose Finn Apple Fingerling’, and ‘Russian Banana Fingerling’ as part of Wood Prairie’s “Experimenter’s Special.” And we couldn’t resist their “Organic Potato Blossom Festival” pack, with “exceptional blossom beauty and fragrance.” It includes ‘Red Cloud’, ‘Carola’, ‘Cranberry Red’, ‘All-Blue’, ‘Onaway’, and ‘Butte’ seed potatoes, enough, according to the catalog, to plant a 4-by-4-foot bed.
We also succumbed to some of the more unusual veggie seeds—’Latah’ tomato, Wild Garden Mix fall and winter salad, ‘Cardinale’ lettuce, ‘Plum Purple’ radish, ‘Yukon Chief’ corn, and ‘Cosmic Red’ hot peppers. Wood Prairie sent the (beautiful) seed packs promptly, and will send us our seed potatoes when it’s time to plant them in our Zone 6 garden. We’re like two kids at Christmas waiting for the box to arrive!
Potatoes played a starring role in our recent vacation in North Carolina, too. We were staying with family, and the octogenarian patriarch is the family chef. He’s always a bit bemused by my vegetarianism, but gamely tries to come up with veggie-friendly recipes when I’m down there. This time, he struck gold with a main-dish potato salad. Mind you, our friend Ben and I are generally not fans of potato salad. Why eat a cold, mayonnaise-laden conglomeration of potentially bacteria-laden (and definitely calorie-laden) glop when you could eat luscious hot potatoes?
However. This particular potato salad would make a convert of anyone. It’s not only not gooey and gloppy, it has a special character thanks to using russet (aka baking) potatoes instead of the waxy-textured potatoes that are staples of potato salad. Think baking potatoes would make a gross, crumbly potato salad? I did, too. But it simply ain’t so. This salad is so good it flew off the table—even in March, not traditional potato-salad season—and into the mouths of friends and relations who kept trying to discreetly leave the table but made themselves conspicuous by returning with mountainous platters of second and third helpings. (What little was left of the enormous amount Mr. Hays had made mysteriously disappeared during the night, much to everyone’s chagrin. The culprit failed to come forward, but I have my suspicions. Are you reading this, Ben?!)
Of course, I begged for the recipe. Mind you, when I make it, I think I’ll try some hot just for the hell of it—I really do love hot potatoes. But trust me, it’s just fabulous cold. Served with a simple side salad of beautiful lettuces—maybe with arugula, scallions, sliced almonds, and orange segments in a light balsamic vinaigrette—and a dry Riesling, you have a perfect meal. So without more ado, here’s the recipe. Enjoy it!
Mr. Hays’s ”Baked Potato” Salad
3 pounds russet potatoes
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 T chopped parsley leaves
1 t salt, or to taste
1/2 t fresh-ground pepper, or to taste
1 cup chopped celery
4 large eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and chopped
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup diced sweet onion (Walla Walla, Vidalia, or red Spanish type)
1/4 cup each diced sweet and dill pickles
3/4 cup mayonnaise
Cook the potatoes 25 to 30 minutes in boiling water, until easily pierced with a fork. Drain potatoes and remove skins by rubbing them off with a paper towel while still warm. (Note from Silence: If using a thin-skinned potato like ‘Yukon Gold’, I’d try this with the skins on.) Cut the potatoes into 1-inch pieces and toss with the cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and parsley. Stir in the celery, red bell pepper, pickles, and onion. Fold in the eggs and mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. Serves 10. (Note from Silence: Yeah, right! Serves 5 is more like it, especially once everyone’s had a taste.)