Purple Potato

Purple Potato

It must be the child in me speaking, but I love it when food dresses up in unusual colors : blue bread! pink garlic! black tomatoes! green rice! red pesto! … and wow, purple potatoes!

I had heard of vitelottes potatoes before, and I had seen them used to make stunning potato chips in particular, but I had never seen them sold anywhere. Until recently that is, when I found them at the Gérardmer market — oh what incredible resources this humble little market has to offer.

When raw, the skin of these potatoes was black and rather thin, and the flesh inside was a pale purple, with uneven white flecks. I brushed them with my now famous potato brush, and steamed them for about fifteen minutes, until a knife could easily be inserted through them. The skin had turned a paler grey, while the flesh had gotten a deep shade of purple.

We then ate them quite simply, with just a little salt, to get the full, unperturbed experience of the authentic purple potato taste. I can’t say we detected any particular purpleness of flavor though, they pretty much tasted like m… potatoes. But that’s ok, really, the color alone is enough to make me happy!

And apparently, purple potatoes were the first variety ever grown, some 800 years ago in the Peruvian Andes, by the good people of the Inca empire, who served it as a special royal treat. And since the Peruvians are also the ones who brought ceviche to the world, well, I think a little trip to Peru — or more realistically a Peruvian restaurant — is highly in order!

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  • http://scally.typepad.com Pascale

    Hi Clotilde,

    Amazing Potatoes.
    I’m still wondering why we can’t find them everywhere. It’s seems that people are a litle bit suspicious because of the color. What a shame !
    Have a very good day.

  • Ant

    Perhaps you could mash them and fry them with red cabbage. A purple bubble and squeak.

  • http://husky9.blogspot.com husky9

    hello, purple potatoes goes well with beef in a mash form…yumyum…but it is very exp over here in sydney and hard to find

  • Anke

    I always wanted to try purple potatos. Couldn’t find them yet. I guess they will look great mashed…
    What did you do with the green rice? I tried to cook it…it turned into a pulp and smelled awful. But a while ago I had tuna at a pan asian restaurant and they used the green rice instead of breadcrumbs as coating. Quite tasty.

  • http://orangette.blogspot.com Molly

    I know, Clotilde–there *is* something glee-inducing about food in unexpected colors! And the purple of these potatoes is just gorgeous on a plate! It’s funny that you wrote about these today, actually…on Saturday night I had dinner with some friends who cultivate a terrific garden every year, and, among other things, we ate boiled purple potatoes that had been dug only minutes before hitting the water. Sooo sweet and creamy, with just enough salt and a swipe of butter…

  • http://www.joannou.net brian w

    We get purple potatoes in regular ol’ grocery stores here in the NE part of the US. Not all the time, and not terribly commonly, but every so often you’ll see some mesh bags of them nestled in with the baby yukon golds or little red skinned ones! Whenever I see them it reminds me that I need to get a mandoline so I can really display those cute little purple slices.

  • http://www.annefloor.nl Anne-Floor

    I’ve never seen something like that in the Netherlands! And we eat lots and lots of potatoes over here! I’m really puzzled! :o)

  • http://www.lenndevours.com Lenn

    They are great aren’t they? I’ve never seen them in stores here in NY…but I’ve seen them quite often at farmer’s markets…

    I made a potato salad with purple potatoes and bright orange sweet potatoes (with some applewood smoked backon and grilled onions)…it was awesome and looked just as good as it tasted.

  • http://www.101cookbooks.com Heidi

    Purple potatoes are my absolute favorite! We cook with them all the time. I love to slice them paper thin and bake them on thin-crust pizza dough with caramelized onions and goat cheese. -h

  • http://azeem.typepad.com Azeem

    Blue food is always slightly otherworldly, like someone has tampered with it. However I had some blueish spuds in the US recently and was pleasantly surprised.

  • Caitlin

    It’s funny that you posted this ow. Everyone (including me) that hasn’t seen these things before seems to be habing some extra-teresstrial-spud encounters. Could these things be like crop circles? In any case- my aunt runs a daycare, and she’s always seving some odd food. Today I walked in and they were having purple potato home fries, porkroll, and green pancakes. Green. Hey, Clotilde, have you heard of porkroll? Friends of mine in the Midwest tell me it’s strictly a New Jersey thing.. but how can something as wonderfula s porkroll not be reknowned the world over?

  • http://shewhoeats.blogspot.com/ chika

    wow, I have never eaten purple potatoes, I have only seen them sold as potato chips in a bag. I have had purple *sweet* potatoes though, they taste… purple. Really.

  • catherine

    Thank you for your introduction of purple potato.
    I have nerver seen before.
    I’m not sure if its taste is good or not.
    At any rate, like a proverbe that other things being equal, choose more good-looking one, I prefer to pick up colorful potato. ^^
    I’ll open my eyes to find one at market.

  • http://seattlebonvivant.typepad.com Seattle Bon Vivant

    Purple potatoes are delicious and so abundant here in Seattle. We buy ours organic from Pike Place Market farmers on Wednesdays. My favorite way to cook these babies is by steaming them and eating them with a dollop of crème fraîche or butter. They really do not need much. They mash perfectly and are lovely combined with other potatoes (medley of colors), roasted with fleur de sel and a drizzle of very good white truffle oil. I’m hungry now… :-)

  • http://karen.catsudon.org Karen

    Hi Clotilde! Your purple potato looks like a yam to me. We usually cook them with glutinous rice and coconut milk or with milk to make jam or candy. Hmmm… makes me hungry.

  • http://www.jaguaromac.com Jaguaromac

    Aren’t those potatoes genitically manipulated?

  • Jaguaromac

    genitically=genetically

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Anke – I haven’t done anything with the green rice yet, just stared at it through the package and smiled! Thanks for the pulp/breading tips, I’ll keep you posted about my attempts!

    Caitlin – Nope, don’t know what a porkroll is! I can sort of guess that it’s made with pork and is in the shape of a roll, but other than that, I’d love to know!

    Jaquaromac – No, I don’t think so : the variety has been around since the Inca started cultivating them! :)

  • Ian

    My brother and I saw purple potatoes today at our local coop. Thank you for the info. We always enjoy eating foods from the ancients. They knew what was the best for their people.

    Again, thanks for the info. I am going to pick some up in the morning brfore they are gone.

  • Ray

    The Incas and Aztecs practiced cannibalism. The “ancients” did not always know “what was the best for their people”.

    The genetic diversity God programmed into living things at creation always amazes me, even though we have lost a lot of diversity, through harmful mutations and extinction, we still see a glimpse of Gods original creation and it “was very good”. Although death and suffering isn’t good, but that was not Gods fault it”s a product of mans sin as Romans 5:12 says, “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin so death spread to all men because all sinned.” God didn’t create death but he did provide eternal life by believing in Jesus. Sola fide.

  • Gisele

    Mmm…yum…We have purple potatoes here in New Zealand,which look very much like those, except they are always lsold as Maori potatoes or as Heirloom potatoes. I believe, that during the 1800’s when the Maori had their large gardens and sold produce to the europeans, they grew a purple variety, and hence our name for them.

    They are getting more popular here!

  • James

    If you have space, you should try growing purple Peruvians or All Blue potatoes. They do best in sandy loam or composted material. Plant them 6-10 inches deep where the sun shines from early morning to mid-afternoon. Most potatoes like to be warm during the day but cool at night (just like humans). Good Luck!

  • Diane

    I recently found a purple potato at the commissary on Fort Brnning, Georgia. I thought to myself what in the world is this. I wanted to know what this concoction was and exactly why I had never seen in on Food Network. Thank you for the information.

  • Jason

    I first came across purple potatoes when I worked at an historic fort in central Canada. Our farmers worked to keep and bring back historic and almost lost breeds of vegetables in our gardens. Vistors loved their unbelievable hue. They are wonderful and it is great to see them coming back to favor again…after so many years.

  • Molly

    I am working on a lab report that has to do with purple potatoes, so your page was helpful, thanks!

  • http://www.tiffanybbrown.com/ tiffany

    i’m a lucky duck then. my nearby farmers market is regularly stocked with purple potatoes.

    if you try really hard, you’ll notice the flavor is a little more buttery and nutty than a plain russet potato. but it’s not too far from a yukon gold. they’re one of the most flavorful potato varieties you can buy IMO.

  • steve

    purple potatoes were given to me as a thank you gift for letting an organic farm display a market sign of thiers in my driveway. I had no idea what they were at first until cutting into one. Wow! we boiled and mashed them to discover the most beautiful lavender color I’ve ever seen. Monet would of loved to paint with it…………..

  • http://dglenn.livejournal.com dglenn

    I’d tasted blue potatoes before, and bought purple ones recently assuming they were the same thing under another name. The colour changed from purple to blue during cooking, and parts turned purple again with more cooking while other parts stayed blue. A few minutes with Google suggests that there are multiple things that are sometimes called “blue potato”, including the purple potato, so I guess I was half-right (or maybe a little less than half).

    I notice the “nutty” flavour that Tiffany described, though it’s less prominent in the potatoes than the similar note in blue corn. The purple potatoes also had a subtly “grassy” note — a fresh-green overtone not present in white potatoes (somewhat reminiscent of the overtones of Ethiopian Harar [or is it 'Harrar'?] coffee, but, again, more subtle) — that I find a pleasant addition.

  • pandora boxer

    I was fortunate enough to come across a few purple potatoes at a community food bank. At first I thought they were just red potatoes that had gone off (as is often the case with food bank produce), until I noted the firm texture. I took them home and mashed them up with a little roasted garlic, butter, milk and a few herbs. The flavour (to me anyway) was nearly identical to artichoke hearts! There was a slight, pleasant “green” taste, as has been mentioned, which I found to be in perfect harmony with the undertones of nuttiness (almost like a parsnip or a rutabaga). The creamy texture was a boon; my mashing was overzealous, but the potatoes retained a light velvety feel. Overall, a pure delight!

  • Dana

    I just bought some purple potato starts from the farmer’s market today. I’m looking forward to purple potatoes throughout the summer! Thanks for this article and all the helpful posts. Now I know how to cultivate them, what flavors to expect, and how to cook them. How delightful they will look on a plate ready to eat!!

  • Gillie Taylor

    Where can I purchase the purple potato to grow, going out of my mind trying to find them in shops or farmers markets. I live in Southampton.

  • Ann

    Just harvested our first ever crop of purple potatoes here in Christchurch, New Zealand. Made a great white bean and vegetable soup in the slow cooker and the purple potatoes were a delicious addition and a great talking point for those enjoying a rich soup on a snowy winter day.

  • lisa

    My mother has these purple potatoes growing in her back yard. She bought them from Lowes, and they were little purple potatoes in a small bag.
    She took them home and grown them in her raised
    garden, until now they were plentyful in her raised bed. As potatoes, they were easy to grow, although I have not tried myself. But I will eat them.

  • Arieh Lebowitz

    Any suggestions on where to get the Purple Potato in the greater New York / Newark region?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I don’t know what to recommend, but if someone reads this and has a recommendation I’ll be sure to pass it along!

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