Photo credit: kthread

Looking over my neighbor Dave’s garden, you can’t help but expect a little blue bird to start chirping in your ear then land on your finger wanting to share a tune. Small, white picket fences separate the butter lettuce from the spinach, romaine and mustard greens, vines of green beans flank both ends of the 15′ by 6′ plot, onion stalks shoot up in perfect rows. And while there’s no bluebirds nearby, he does have a baby bunny living in the garden.

“Aren’t you worried the bunny is going to eat everything?” I asked him one day.

“No, there’s enough to share,” he patiently explained. He’d found the little bunny alone somewhere in his yard and plopped him in the middle of the garden to enjoy the summer. Dave was right. There was plenty of lettuce for the bunny, Dave, and still baskets full of goodies to bring over to our family.

Dave took pity on me. See, I’m no gardener. I think he was a bit worried that my kids would grow up without knowing how to grow anything. He volunteered to till our garden spot (I accepted). Then he came over to show us how to plant seeds. That night he even snuck over and planted potatoes beneath the cucumbers. He told me later, “I wanted you to have a surprise.”

We did end up having a few sweet peas. We managed one salad before a bunny took over our garden and ate the rest (I’ve since decided bunnies are akin to rats and that I don’t like them anymore). Seriously, I would have to loudly clap my hands then flail my arms to get the bunny to leave our garden. Even then, he’d leisurely hop about five feet away and then as soon as I went back inside he’d hop right back into my spinach.

Sadly, when it came to digging up our “surprise,” well, we never did find them. Dave again took pity on us and brought over a large bags of Peruvian purple potatoes. I was hooked. For dinner that night I made whipped, mashed purple potatoes. When my youngest spied the bowl of purple goodness, she couldn’t resist and used her finger to try a big dollop of what she thought was frosting–nope, mashed potatoes. Come dinner time, my youngest just couldn’t get over the idea that her mashed potatoes looked more like Play-doh or frosting than potatoes. She didn’t like them. I did and so did my other two girls.

We’ve since moved away and Dave is sadly no longer our purple potato supplier, but I’ve been happy to find them at our local produce grocers.

There’s a few things to keep in mind when cooking purple potatoes–they’re much softer than regular potatoes so they won’t hold their shape–or have the same cooking time as heartier varieties. The outside skin is a deep purple, then there’s an edge of white and lighter purple flesh. So if you whip them, removing the skin, you’ll end up with a batch of beautiful, lavendar-colored mashed potatoes. For roasting, leave as much of the skin on as possible so they hold their purple color–the inside will lighten with cooking. I roasted them with a medley of red potatoes, yellow carrots and onions and they turned out the mushiest of the batch. Still, the novelty of the color overshadowed any failings with the firmness.

Have you tried purple potatoes yet?

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