Open many books about fresh vegetables and you will find a section in which the author laments about the commonality of the term "new potatoes." We've all seen new potatoes referred to on menus and in supermarkets across the country, but the truth is that what we find are rarely true new potatoes.
"Real new potatoes are harvested from the plant's trailing underground roots while the plant is still growing. They tend to be small and their skins are thin and flaky. They are prized for their fine, delicate flavor, so if you find them -- usually when the first early summer crop is still weeks from harvest ... nab them. I've never seen them sold anywhere but at the farmers' markets and roadside stands, but they may start appearing in specialty markets."
I smiled this week as I read in the CUESA Newsletter that Little Organic Farm would be returning to the market for a new season. Dave Little farms in Marin County and brings some of the best potatoes you'll ever have to our Bay Area Farmers' Markets. I buy his potatoes from the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market or the Sunday San Rafael market.
"This year's crop looks really good. The taste is going to be very good, though the drier spring may mean lower yields," says Dave Little about his potatoes. Little Organic Farm practices dry farming, a method of growing in which the farmer plants in wet soil and then does not typically add additional water to the crop as it grows. When potatoes are grown this way, the resultant product is a potato that is high in sugar content and wonderfully flavored. The potatoes have a lower water content and therefore a higher concentration of potato flavor. The trade-off is a very low crop yield. "Farmers who water their crops get a yield of 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of potatoes per acre. We're lucky to get 10,000 pounds," said Dave Little in a phone interview.