The existence of potatoes have long been a staple diet for many cultures, being one of the more affordable carbohydrates to complete a meal. Even so, you may not be familiar with scarlet, purple or knobbly potatoes, but
thanks to the current revival in tasty heritage varieties, you soon
Far from being a cause for alarm, the unusual colours denote extra
nutritional value. The purple skin of the arran victory, the scarlet
flesh of the highland burgundy red and the inky stain running through
the shetland black are natural pigmentation caused by compounds known
as anthocyanins. These are powerful antioxidants which also have
anti-inflammatory - and possibly even anti-cancer properties.
As well as the colours, heritage spuds offer a wide variety of tastes
and textures. The slightly nutty ratte, for example - a 19th-century
classic beloved by the French - is a favourite with chefs from double
Michelin-starred Hélène Darroze at The Connaught in London down, and
makes perfect mash. The red duke of york is a star all-rounder with a
hint of sweetness that shines through whether roasted, baked or mashed.
And the pink fir apple's knobbly exterior conceals a superb waxy flesh
whose deep, earthy flavour works best simply boiled and either served
hot, or cold in salads. The salad blue, conversely, doesn't make good
salads as it's too floury - although it mashes and fries well. And in
contrast with its striking appearance, it has a subtle flavour. Grant
Hawthorne, one of Britain's representatives at last autumn's Slow Food
festival in Turin, has introduced several varieties at his restaurant
The Plough in Buckinghamshire. "Highland burgundy red have a wonderful
flavour," he says. They also make great novelty chips.
Colourful potatoes should be an interesting addition to the dinner table, and although supermarkets are beginning to show interest in these heritage roots, you can plant them yourself too. Of course like any other vegetable planting, the potatoes need proper nurturing and you may experience pest problems at the early stage of planting.
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