Potato Violet Queen
I'll say it straight up front: I'm not a great fan of potatoes. Mostly they are a boring and bland staple food served at cheap restaurants where everything served tastes the same. All my life I've felt like this, with only one exception to this rule: freshly harvested new potatoes straight from a clay soil field eaten with a great big knob of butter, salted herring and fresh dill. But now, in mid life, I've changed my opinion of the humble spud and begun to love it! Why? I've found a new variety, and fickle as it may sound this new variety is my new best friend!
My new best friend is called Purple Queen, and wow is she purple! Unlike the Salad Blue variety that I grew last year, the Purple Queen is actually purple through and through even when cooked. Or should I say, especially when cooked. As raw, it is more black than purple, but when boiled it leaks enough of the colouring agent out of the water to gain a really magnificent purple colour. The cooking water, on the other hand, is a poisonous green colour which would put any normal person of their food. But not me. I am in love!
I began chitting the seed potatoes in late April but didn't plant them out until the middle of May because we had a very cold late spring and I was unsure how well they would take to the cold ground. Although I had had them out for weeks to chit, they only produced the smallest of shoots while most other varieties would have made tall and leggy sprouts, but clearly these little queens were not amused. Some potatoes simply don't like it unless the conditions are right, so I thought it best to wait a bit longer than usual. I was very relieved that they had decided to grow at all when in the first week of June they made a few tentative shoots above ground, and with tender dedication I watered them to the best of my ability to keep them happy through the cold and windy month!
It took a whole month for them to grow into anything that resembled a potato patch. The flowers were not at all purple as I had expected, but small and white and hardly visible. With the Salad Blues of yesteryear, the flowers were big and violet and singing their own praise! "This will come to nothing," I thought, "I might as well give up potatoes altogether." But, by the end of July as soon as I started digging for tubers I changed my mind! Beautiful and dark, like black diamonds hidden in the earth, a most bountiful crop awaited me! Bucket after bucket, from the end of July until mid October, I have dug these jewels from the garden.
The peel is thin and supple so most of the time I simply leave it on while cooking, but by the end of the season when the tubers are bigger I sometimes peel them too. Sadly, like so many other gardeners, I do get a bit of potato scab in my vegetable patch but as you can see from the pictures only a few of the tubers are affected so this variety seems quite resistant. Another thing I noticed about Violet Queen potatoes is that they cook much faster than "normal" potatoes, and so it is good to halve the boiling time for them. I use them in potato salads and as mashed potatoes, and to my mind the taste is much earthier and stronger with an "oomph" that I adore.
This was one of my more successful experiments and happy to say I really recommend this variety for anyone who would like to try something new!
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