Farmers are likely some of the most creative and resilient types of people. It’s a necessary characteristic in this line of work. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I walk through the field and only see what needs to be done and what isn’t maturing on time. I have to figure out how to make the best of the next few weeks as I wait for the tomatoes to grow.
It helps when the vegetables are also resilient. At my farm, we have come to rely on potatoes for a steady, reliable crop. In years such as this one, when the summer crops are inching along slowly, the potato crop in full bloom is a welcome sight.
Potatoes will grow in many different types of soils and conditions but require careful attention to soil fertility and crop rotation. After planting a potato crop, we do not plant potatoes in the same area for at least four years. After harvesting potatoes, we amend the soil with a cover crop and plenty of compost. Then we plant a crop that will supplement the nitrogen that the potatoes used.
As organic farmers, we don’t take shortcuts when growing potatoes. After the harvest, we test the soil to see what mixture of cover crop and compost will replenish the nutrients that the potatoes consumed. It’s finding a balance, really. We put back into the soil what was removed. We improve the soil so that other crops can follow the potatoes, and we try not to overdo our potato planting because we know it will take more time to replenish the soil than it does with other crops.
Potatoes have gotten a bad reputation lately as a high source of carbohydrates. However, they can provide significant dietary fiber if you eat the skins. Some varieties, like Nicola, have a low glycemic index and high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin A, folate and vitamin K, along with a significant amount of potassium.
Right now, we are digging new potatoes, which we harvest by hand because the skins have not yet set up. They are light and flaky, slightly sweet and fantastic for steaming, roasting, grilling or adding to soup. I am providing a simple recipe for new potatoes as a way to enjoy this underappreciated tuber.
Chef Demo at the Market: Join Karen Schuppert at the Napa Farmers Market on Saturday, June 10, at 11 a.m., as she demonstrates Summer Green Soup with Cilantro and Avocado. The demonstration is free, and a recipe will be provided.
Crispy Herb-Roasted New Potatoes
This recipe is adapted from one by J. Kenji López-Alt that appeared on www.SeriousEats.com.
4 pounds new potatoes
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chopped chives
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
½ stick (2 ounces) butter
Freshly ground black pepper
Place potatoes, salt and bay leaf in water to cover. Stir to dissolve the salt and bring to a low boil. Cook for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size. Cool completely, then cut in half.
While the potatoes are cooking, combine the garlic, chives, parsley, thyme and shallot in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the butter, season with salt and pepper and process until smooth.
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the herb butter in a skillet. Add the halved potatoes and toss to coat. Transfer them to the baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, shaking the baking sheet occasionally to make sure the potatoes crisp on all sides. Serve immediately.
Serves 8 to 10.