New potatoes are tender and ready for summer meals

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WARSAW—Virginia new potatoes are small and tasty and ready for cooking—and you can get them at your local farmers’ market or produce stand right now.

“We’ve been digging for about two weeks,” said Dana Boyle, a Westmoreland County produce grower and member of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Small Fruit and Vegetable Advisory Committee. “We planted them right about St. Patrick’s Day, and we have a really good stand this year. They’re just little, young new potatoes, and people just go crazy for them.”

Potatoes are grown on about 600 farms in Virginia, but only 62 farms raise them for wholesale, according to the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture. Boyle sells them at her own farm market and to local food vendors and community-supported agriculture groups.

New potatoes “have a richer flavor and thinner skins, so there’s no need to skin them,” she said. “They cook up a lot faster, but most of all, I think it’s the rich flavor you get from homegrown local potatoes. They’re not stored; we dig them one day and sell them the next, so they’re new and fresh.”

Boyle harvests potatoes until September but said the smallest and most tender spuds are available now. The rest stay in the ground and are harvested on a different schedule. New this year is a 3-acre patch of potatoes she is growing to donate to the Northern Neck Food Bank. Several other area farmers also donate fresh produce to the food bank.

“The director came to us and said they appreciated all the donations we send them all through the summer and asked for more help in getting fruits and vegetables,” Boyle said. “I don’t have time or land or manpower to raise everything for them, but I told them I could raise one crop this year. Potatoes were the first thing that came to mind; they store well in the field and have a good shelf life for the food bank customers.”

If you’re looking for a way to prepare new potatoes other than boiling them, try this recipe for Oven Fries from Bringing It to the Table, a recipe book published by county Farm Bureau women’s committees in the VFBF Southeast District.

Oven Fries

5-6 medium red-skin potatoes, washed
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
dash of paprika

Preheat oven to 400°. Cut potatoes into wedges and place in a large casserole dish. Mix all the ingredients together, making sure potatoes are well-coated. Bake 45 minutes; turn potatoes over, and bake another 10 to 15 minutes.

Contact Boyle at 804-761-2412 or Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.

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