Photo and article by Donna Iverson
This summer, I felt a need to grow basic garden food ..green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and potatoes. Social media was reporting possible food shortages so I turned my focus away from herbs and native flowers to organic edibles.
Lucky for me, a fellow community gardener was planting seed potatoes and I asked him if he could spare one so I could give it a go. He graciously handed me a sliced-off segment of potato and told me to plant it 4 inches deep with the eyes pointing up. Another gardener advised me to mulch for protection.
Soon a plant appeared and in less than two months I had a dozen small potatoes pushing up through the soil. But they were blue? Were they sick?
Back to my source whose name is Allen Steffen, an expert in everything gardening even though he modestly denies it. Maybe like me, although he has been gardening for years, he still feels like a beginner as there is always so much to learn.
So why are the potatoes blue? I asked him via email. They are an Adirondack blue variety, he replied.
According to Wikipedia, Adirondack blue and red potatoes were developed by three Cornell scientists back in 2003. Robert Plaisted, Ken Paddock, and Walter De Jong introduced the variety to gardeners as a specialty potato high in antioxidants.
These potatoes are most easily grown from seed potatoes, Steffen said. You can purchase Adirondack blue seeds online from catalogs, but Steffen has not had any luck growing them that way. A check online, shows the Adirondack blue seeds sold out in 2020.
These speciality potatoes need less than two months to mature. As advised by Steffen, plant the cut up spuds about four inches deep and mulch for protection. Each plant produces about a half dozen small potatoes which push their way up through the soil in late summer, when the leaves die back as they reach maturity.
As for taste, Steffen said he preferred the red Adirondacks to the blues as do I. Maybe it is the sight of blue mashed potatoes that influenced my tastebuds. Next time, I will try the recommended potato soup. ...then again, blue soup??
Although this is a relatively new variety, blue potatoes date back thousands of years. They are heirloom plants native to South America and are members of the nightshade family, as are tomatoes and blueberries. A warning: eating too many nightshades can make for sore joints in some people.
But at least one group has found a popular use for them. The alumni of Penn state sell Adirondack blue potato chips to raise money for their athletic program.