How To Pick Out Your Farmers-Market Potatoes

How To Pick Out Your Farmers-Market Potatoes

The humble potato is one of the most versatile items in any kitchen. Whether you fry, boil, bake, or mash them, you can incorporate potatoes into almost any meal. Pair them with a fried egg for breakfast or a steak for dinner, and you’re guaranteed a satisfying meal.

Most grocery stores offer a limited selection of potato varieties, but farmers markets are a different story. If multiple vendors have potatoes for sale, you might struggle to decide which farmer to buy from. Plus, potato varieties feature a range of colors, shapes, and textures that are suited to different recipes.

Here, we’ll show you how to pick out your farmers-market potatoes so that you can make the most of your shopping trip. If you’re a vendor at farmers markets, this will also give you insight into the shopper’s perspective so that you can be a better resource for your patrons.

An Overview of Potato Varieties

Before you start shopping, you need to understand the different types of potatoes you might find at a farmers market. Here’s a brief overview of the most common varieties.

White or Yellow Potatoes

These potatoes have light-brown skin with either white or yellow flesh, and they’re typically the most recognizable type. Russet and Yukon hold are the most popular varieties for roasting or mashing. White and yellow potatoes are great all-purpose varieties because you can prepare them in many ways.

Red Potatoes

Red potatoes have reddish skin and white flesh with a waxy texture. When cooked, these potatoes hold their shape, making them better choices for roasting rather than mashing. Plus, with their creamy texture, you won’t have to add lots of butter to them.

Blue or Purple Potatoes

The most striking additions to any farmers-market stand are blue or purple potatoes. They taste like white or yellow varieties, but they have distinct purple skin and flesh. To add visual appeal to a salad or side dish, consider the purple potato.

Fingerling Potatoes

These potatoes got their name because their elongated shape and size resemble fingers. They’re also known for their small size at maturity. Their unusual shape and rich flavor make them appealing choices.

New or Baby Potatoes

Farmers harvest new potatoes to allow the other potatoes on the plant to mature. That means new potatoes are just young versions of any variety of potato. New potatoes are prized for their thin skins, creamy texture, and bite-sized shape. They spoil quickly, so make sure to eat them within a few days.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are only distant relatives of other potato types, but you can still find them at local farmers markets, which is why we’ve included them. Sweet potatoes have red or brown skins and a sweet flavor. Most sweet potatoes grown in the US have orange flesh, but varieties from other countries may have yellow or white flesh.

Chat with the Vendor

The vendor can be a helpful resource when you’re learning how to pick out your farmers-market potatoes. Keep in mind that not all vendors at farmers markets are the growers. Some vendors operate as distributors and sell produce from other farmers. If this is the case, ask the vendor if a local farmer grew the potatoes.

If the vendor is also the grower, you can ask more specific questions about their farming practices. For example, you can ask them about their stance on pesticides or whether they’re certified organic. Whether you’re trying to avoid pesticides or you just want to make more informed decisions about your food, chatting with the grower is the best strategy for getting more information.

Check for Signs of Freshness

Once you’ve chosen the variety of potatoes you want, check for signs of freshness. Here’s what to look for to ensure you’re getting high-quality produce that’s worth the price.

  • Firm texture: A fresh potato should feel firm and heavy for its size and have smooth skin. Soft potatoes with wrinkled skin may be old, or they may not have been stored properly.
  • Cut-free surface: Look for potatoes without any deep cuts. Potatoes will attempt to heal around damaged areas, which can lead to inedible spots. You can still cook with a potato after you remove a cut, but you’ll be losing part of the potato.
  • No green spots: Potatoes can form green spots when exposed to sunlight. These green spots will taste bitter, and you’ll need to discard those parts of the potato.

The potatoes you buy from a local farmers market are typically much fresher than their grocery-store counterparts. When you buy locally, the produce doesn’t need to travel over long distances. Many times, you can buy produce at farmers markets the same day it was harvested.

Consider How You’ll Use the Potatoes

If you’re interested in buying a certain potato variety, ask the farmer or vendor how they’d prepare their produce. Farmers-market vendors are usually passionate about their products, so they’ll likely offer recipe ideas to inspire you. They might suggest simple preparation ideas such as roasting or boiling so that you can really appreciate the flavor.

If you’re a farmers-market vendor, consider offering packaged herbs or a recipe card to give your customers cooking ideas. Your patrons will appreciate the extra gesture and be more likely to return for your potatoes and other produce.

Try To Resist Overbuying

The mounds of quality potatoes might entice you to stock up, but it’s best to resist buying more than you’ll use. Potato packaging bags will extend potatoes’ shelf life, but potatoes won’t stay fresh indefinitely.

Be realistic when buying potatoes or you’ll end up wasting the farmer’s crop and your money. If you just can’t resist, plan to make a recipe that uses a lot of potatoes, such as potato soup.

Farmers markets are great places to buy fresh potatoes and popular alternatives to traditional grocery stores. They transform the task of grocery shopping into a meaningful community event.

At farmers markets, you can not only build relationships with the people who grow your potatoes but also get peak-quality produce. Once you learn how to choose fresh potatoes, you’ll enjoy local potatoes that don’t have to travel far to reach your plate.

How To Pick Out Your Farmers-Market Potatoes