Purple Potatoes: What’s the Deal?

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Potatoes comes in many, many varieties – much more than a glance of a British supermarket would have you believe. But none could be more distinct than the Vitelotte. With it’s deep purple-black skin and bright blue-violet flesh, this potato has a stunning vivid colour, and distinctive, chestnutty taste.

What makes them purple?

Purple potatoes are packed full of anti-oxidants – and, primarily, the anti-oxidant ‘anthocyanin’, the flavinoid that gives red, purple and blue fruits and vegetables their distinctive colour. Revered for both it’s use as a dye and for it’s health promoting benefits, purple-hued plants have been cultivated for thousands of years for this wonderful antioxidant.

Did you know that purple produce was one of the predicted trends for 2017? With the health and wellness movement taking the world by storm – we’re not surprised! (Plus, purple foods are delicious…)

Why is this so good?

Antioxidants are essential to counter the effects of oxidants (i.e. ‘free-radicals’) in the body. In an antioxidant scarce diet, oxidants are free to cause cell damage, increase inflammation and contributing to disease progression. Purple potatoes, fortunately, have much more than antioxidants than their paler potato cousins – hence the vivid hue.

Anthocyanins are, in fact, antioxidant superheroes and are a potent force of health in the body, as demonstrated by a plethora of in-vitro and participant studies. For example, one study found that adding purple potatoes to the diets of overweight, middle aged subjects reduced their blood pressure by five points within a month. Just by adding potatoes! (And who doesn’t love the idea of eating more potatoes for health?) And, the purple cherry on top: despite the calorie increase, none of the subjects gained any weight. Purple potatoes truly are superior…

What to do with them?

Purple potatoes definitely taste different to your usual supermarket yellow and white varieties – and that’s a good thing! With their nutty taste and magnificent colour (even when cooked), you can use these delicious potatoes in any potato recipe you desire for a twist. Whip up a salad and add vitelottes for a striking visual element; slice, drizzle with olive oil and herbs and roast for some truly spectacular and flavoursome french fries, or how about this recipe for a striking autumn gratin?

Recipe:

You’ll need:
5 medium vitelotte potatoes, sliced
1 festival squash, peeled and cubed.
1 leek , sliced
A generous bunch of spinach
A handful of sage
A handful of thyme
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 good tsp black pepper
1 cup of Sussex cream
5 oz Sister Sarah cheese

Method:
Preheat the oven to 180c. In a baking dish, layer the leeks, spinach, squash and potatoes, finishing with a layer of purple potatoes for the top layer. Sprinkle each layer with garlic, herbs and pepper. When layered, pour over the cream and top with the Sister Sarah cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for about an hour and half – or until the potatoes and squash are cooked.

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Want to try some interesting, unusual and downright delicious potato varieties, grown in Sussex? Take a look at our range now! 

Have you tried vitelotte potatoes? What do you think? What’s your favourite heritage potato? Let us know in the comments or on our social media! (@finandfarm)


Recipe inspired by Autumn Potato Gratin by Better Homes and Gardens.
Image 1: Luscious Potato Plant Flowers by Laura Ferreira/ Flickr (CC)
Image 2: Purple Peruvian Potatoes by Pim Techamuanvivit/ Flickr (CC)

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Purple Potatoes: What’s the Deal?

Why Lettuce is a great winter veg

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The Sussex Little Gems that are grown over in Arundel have become more robust and dense as they have been left to develop and grow.  Lettuce during the winter becomes sweeter as they have longer to release their natural sugars – and they are surprisingly tolerant of cold weather.

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So our Little Gems are not so little now (Nick brought one home the other day – see this pic).  We still call them Gems although they are probably closer to a cross between a Romaine and a Butterhead…ie fairly soft and fleshy but with a crisper stem.

Around a thousand years ago, Lettuce was boiled up as a narcotic to help poor old farmers through their winter months, no doubt.  So whilst we are not claiming your lettuce is hallucinogenic…it is a comfortingly soothing veg and certainly not just a salad veg.

The first pic in this post, shows Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Spicy Pork served in a lettuce boat – a light alternative to pitta bread and still complimenting spicy flavours and easy on calories for the upcoming party season.

But, his idea of serving as a gratin with pasta is warming, filling and likely to go unnoticed by those who aren’t keen on hot salad veg.

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Proof positive that lettuce doesn’t have to be unforgiving rabbit food. This is a lovely, greedy way to eat a big plateful of veg. Serves four.

3 hearts of lettuce, around 500g altogether
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
20g butter
150g unsmoked streaky bacon, cut into small pieces
3 bunches spring onions
100g baby peas or frozen petits pois
3 tbsp double cream (optional)
100g coarse breadcrumbs

Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Trim the bases off the lettuces, then cut them horizontally into 5cm-thick chunks. Put these in a large bowl with the oil and some salt and pepper, toss and transfer to a shallow oven dish around 28cm x 22cm. Roast for 15-20 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the lettuce is wilted, its stalks tender, and its leaves lightly coloured.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for a few minutes until starting to colour.

Trim and wash the spring onions, slice them on the diagonal into chunky, 2cm pieces, add to the bacon pan, cook gently for five minutes, until tender, and season.

If using fresh peas, cook them lightly in salted boiling water until tender – only a minute or two for little baby peas. If using frozen, put them in a colander and pour over a mug of boiling water. In either case, drain and add to the bacon pan.

When the lettuce comes out of the oven, heat the grill to medium. Spoon the bacon mix over the lettuce, leaving a good amount of fat in the pan, and pour on the cream, if using. Add the breadcrumbs to the frying pan, stir so they absorb the butter, then scatter over the lettuce. Grill for a few minutes, until golden and crisp on top, and serve at once.

Why Lettuce is a great winter veg