A Potato Primer

Even people who claim to hate vegetables (who are those people, anyway?) love potatoes. Sturdy absorbers of flavor, potatoes can go anywhere and do anything. Dress ‘em up, dress ‘em down, put them in soups, toss them in a salad, turn them into chips and serve them with a sandwich (or put those chips in a sandwich), mash them and let those spuds cozy up beside a ribeye. There’s little that a potato can’t do, and even fewer people who can resist them. 

Though they look as resilient as rocks, potatoes are actually quite sensitive, particularly to changes in the weather. Right about now, as temperatures begin to warm, potato plants start to slow their production, making it challenging for our buyers to purchase all we need to fulfill our Sun Basket orders. The season for sweet potatoes is the exact opposite as it is for regular potatoes. They’re a warm-weather crop that’s just getting started in this in-between season. That’s why you may find a different variety of potato in your meal bag than the one listed in the ingredient list. 

There are over 4000 species of potatoes, though most have never made it beyond the borders of the tuber’s native Peru. Here at Sun Basket, we typically reach for five different kinds. 

Russets—Floury and dry, russets cook up light and fluffy. These are the classic bakers, and are also the ones to pick for mashing and frying. 

New potatoes—These are freshly dug potatoes that come to the market without curing (an aging process that most potatoes go through before being shipped to stores), and have a shorter shelf life than regular potatoes. New potatoes hold their shape when boiled, which makes them great for salads and also for roasting. 

Yukons—Characterized by their pale yellow flesh, Yukons are incredibly versatile. They’re excellent mashers, hold their shape well in salads and soups, and are a wonderful choice for gratins. 

Garnet sweet potatoes—Quite moist, garnets have an orange-yellow flesh and an rich, sweet flavor. 

Japanese yams—Unlike garnet sweet potatoes, this Japanese variety has a pale white flesh that’s much drier than a red-fleshed sweet potato, with a more full-bodied flavor. 

Chef’s Tip: When you unpack your Sun Basket, remove the potatoes and store them in a paper bag in the coolest part of your kitchen. Refrigerator temperatures are too cold for potatoes. 

At Sun Basket, our commitment to seasonal cooking means that sometimes we must adapt to the unpredictability of the marketplace. Sometimes you’ll find fresh produce in your box that’s different than what’s shown in the photograph of the recipe. In our Market Watch, we explore these potential substitutions and share some more information about the seasonal vegetables in your box each week.


Illustration by @boccaccinimeadows