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New Potato Primer

September 27, 2006

“New Potato”; “Creamer”; baby potatoes; chats; potato nuggets are all used to describe small, waxy potatoes typically harvested in the spring and early sumer.

Technically, “New Potatoes” are picked green, harvested in a manner called “grabbling” -- i.e., pulling out the smaller potatoes by hand while leaving the plant alone. Creamers described those that were more creamy. Now these names are used indescriminately. At Whole Foods, some delicious little French New Potatoes were also called Creamers, for instance.

Since potatoes are generally cured after harvest to thicken the skin, the “uncured” new potato skin is very thin and delicate, and the small potato is intense in its flavor. A true new potato can be peeled by just pulling at the skin with a fingernail, or by scrubbing.

Sometimes potatoes are planted closer together to yield smaller potatoes, where the grower is looking for quality rather than poundage. Other times the variety yields a thinner skinned, naturally smaller potato. Since Peru is the native source of all potatos, and boasts 4,200 varietys it is hard to tell just which you are getting some times.

Larger potatoes are boiled by immersing in cold water, bringing the water up to a boil, reducing the heat, and simmering rapidly until done. New Potatoes are treated like any other green vegetable and are added to boiling water, brought back to the boil, then simmered gently until done.

Fingerling potatoes - can be small Idahos or Yukon Gold’s, and have a finger-like shape. They too are thin skinned and don’t need much peeling.
Look for unblemished potatoes with no withering, cracking or sprouting of "eyes" store for up to 2 weeks in a cool dark, place. Greenish flesh means the potato was exposed to light too long. Just peel off the green which is bitter to taste. Refrigeration of new potatoes tends to sweeten and turn them dark when cooking. They are really best used within a few days of purchasing.

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