You say potato, Stephanie Rein says Magic Molly. Then she says Red Norland. She says lavender mashed potatoes and homefries and roasted potatoes. And finally, she tells you it's been a tough year for beetles—pests like the Striped Cucumber Beetle and the regular old potato beetle.
Stephanie and her family run Out There Organics, and they sell at the farmers' market in Truro. She's been spraying with an organic-approved compound called pyrethrin to try to keep the plants alive. Its a neurotoxin that affects insects and breaks down when exposed to sunlight and air, and the U.S. government considers it the safest food spray around. Beetles won't hurt the tubers, but they will poke holes in the leaves until finally the plants just die. You want to avoid this, because the longer the plants stay alive and the more photosynthesizing they're doing, the bigger the potatoes get underground.
Usually, you don't want to dig your potatoes until a few weeks after the plants up top have died back—if you want to keep them, they need a few weeks to let the skin cure and toughen for storage. But given all the pests, Stephanie's been digging early. Her varieties won't overwinter, and she wants to get them before some other bug does. Which means it's good potato eating right now.
We dug ours the other day—the purples and the golds—and I've been making a new potato salad with pesto and eggs. It's from Plenty, and it's spot-on. You take peas and potatoes and eggs and coat them with a parsley-basil-pine nut-garlic-Parmesan-olive oil pesto. You add a little vinegar, and you toss while the potatoes are hot. If you're hungry, you serve it right away. But it's also pretty good at room temp, and on a really hot day, even cold.
PESTO POTATO SALAD
This recipe is adapted from the "Royal potato salad" on page 20 of Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty. A few tips: the flavor of the oil will really come through in the salad, so make sure to use a high quality olive oil. Also, if you don't want the potatoes too heavily dressed, you'll probably have more than enough pesto. Add it slowly and save any extra for pasta or dipping bread.
1 and 3/4 pounds new potatoes, rinsed
1 cup basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup parsley leaves, packed
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar
a handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
1 cup shelled peas, cooked
sea salt and pepper to taste
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
Boil the potatoes for 15-20 minutes, until tender but not falling apart. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, combine the basil, parsley, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Add the olive oil and pulse until you get a soupy pesto.
As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them into bite size pieces and put them in a large bowl with the vinegar, mint, and peas. Add pesto to taste and toss well. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste and top with the eggs. Serve immediately (it's also good cold the next day).