The Star-Herald

Small potatoes

Historically speaking, however peculiar our growing season (and 2018 has thus far been a doozy), some crops on a small, diversified farm seem to have a good year.  This is an advantage compared to a monoculture which can leave the factory farmer, CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) or corporation with few prospects beyond greater debt and no choice but to “eat the seed grain,” so to speak.

Aroostook County’s climate and soils allow small growers to maximize success.  If the spinach bolts early, the Swiss chard ignores autumn chill. Tomatoes may get blossom-end rot, but squash plants soak up rain and direct it toward larger fruit.  We may have droughty pasture, but the hay crop comes in high and dry with tight strings to keep it green and fresh all winter.

It is much easier to quote Linus Van Pelt, “Just wait ‘til next time,” when the devastation is one crop among several in a growing season.  

Local farmers have flexibility built into our size and creativity built into our souls.  Understanding our customer base and our ability to both create and fill a niche are aces-in-the-hole.  For example, it is quite unusual for a County native to be ambivalent about potatoes, on which we were practically weaned.  Generally, potatoes are considered a welcome addition to most meals. They are filling, satisfying and relatively inexpensive.  They store well to take a connoisseur right through the winter months. Potatoes are delicious baked, boiled, fried, mashed, riced, scalloped, included in hot soups, stews, or made into hash.  It is hard to mess up potatoes other than burning them.

Jim Brown and Kim Becker from Whole Earth Farm, vendors at the Presque Isle Farmers Market at Riverside on Saturday mornings, are happy to sell you a serving or a sack of delicious, organically grown potatoes in a variety of sizes, colors, textures and flavors.  

As the season progresses, their “regular” potatoes will come in, but just now, County residents are besotted with new potatoes of small size and tender skin.  Many folks will tell you that the “only way” to fix new potatoes is to get them small, boil them whole with the skins on, and half-drown them in butter. Agreed — fabulous.   

Alternatively, close out the summer by serving colorful baby spuds in a cold potato salad that contains no mayonnaise, but plenty of flavor:  

New Potato Salad

Mix together:

1 cup sour cream

½-cup plain yogurt

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tablespoons dry mustard

3 tablespoons minced onion

3 cloves of garlic, crushed  

Allow mixture to set while boiling 8 medium-sized new potatoes until fork-tender.  Drain and cut the potatoes into large chunks or just halve the tiny ones. While still hot, add ¼ cup each of lemon juice and olive oil plus salt and pepper to taste.  

Cool completely.  Add 2 chopped celery ribs, 4 chopped hard-boiled eggs, and 2 tablespoons of minced parsley. Fold sour cream mixture into potatoes.  Chill for a few hours before serving.

The Presque Isle Farmers’ Market president for the 2018 season is Deena Albert-Parks of Chops Ahoy Farm in Woodland. For information about participating or visiting the market, contact her at hoctrainer@aol.com.

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