The Star-Herald

Small potatoes, part 2

The article last week examined the versatility of the “lowly potato,” a vegetable much loved by Aroostook County residents, who enjoy it both hot and cold in a variety of dishes.  Specifically, we considered the properties of new potatoes, sold by several vendors at The Market on Saturday mornings. These farmers send away customers with smiles on their faces and exceptional flavor, value and freshness in their reusable shopping bags.

While market vendors are happy to provide our patrons with the vegetables they desire in the form that leaves them satisfied, there is a large elephant in the living room with regard to new potatoes.  Jim Brown, owner/operator of Whole Earth Farm, puts it rather succinctly, “If I dig up all my potatoes when they are not much larger than golf balls, I use them up before they get big. I am paid by the pound; I need big.”  This explains the comparatively high price of new potatoes compared to the big baking potatoes that will show up in a 50-pound bag in October.

Raising the price per pound on the little nuggets emerging from the ground in August is a common way to maintain solvency, but certainly not the only one.  We have a new-to-the-market vendor who went in entirely the opposite direction. Rather than sell small potatoes in big bags, Leon Nadeau of Bub’s Gourmet Potato Chips sells big potatoes in small bags.  Specifically, he selects large, uniform potatoes that fully matured before harvest. In this way, he ensures that the vegetable sugars have converted to starch so the consistency and color of the resulting potato chip will be desirable.  He carefully slices each potato into a uniform thickness so they will cook evenly, then fries the slices to a golden color and crisp, light texture.

If you have never tasted a small-batch, handmade potato chip before, the first sample will be as much of a surprise to you as your first kiss.  Who knew? These are nothing like what you find on the snack rack at the gas station. Salt does not drown out the flavor of the potato and excess oil does not overwhelm their crisp texture.  Bub offers samples of his wares in a variety of flavors. There are flavors you have heard of and some that never occurred to you before — all are delicious.

Regular customers of the Presque Isle Farmers Market at Riverside have learned to come early for the best potato chip selection.  “Bub” makes the chips in small batches by hand so when they are gone, they are gone. In general, he has sold out and gone by noon.  Potato chips for breakfast, anyone?

Stop by the Riverside Pavilion on Saturday between 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. for the best locally grown snacks and foodstuffs you have ever tasted and wonderful craft items as well.   

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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