The Daily Spud

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Spud Sunday: I Heart Potatoes

So did ya, then? Did ya get some heart-shaped potatoes from your valentine?

I jest not. Last week’s Sunday Mirror reported that these heart-shaped roasting potatoes from France, known as Francelines, were being carried in the UK by Tescos for this years Valentine’s market. They have only become available for sale there following the scrapping of an EU ruling which had banned the sale of mis-shapen fruit and vegetables. Thus, these heart-shaped taters are no longer to be hidden away and treated as the hunchbacks of the vegetable world, but, rather, will be made available for the delectation of the wider EU populace.

heart-shaped potato

[image from http://www.mirror.co.uk]

So, would heart-shaped spuds do it for you, then? Some twice-baked heart-shapes for Valentine’s dinner, perhaps? Maybe that’s not your thing but chances are it’ll do it for at least some folks. Over in the US, spuds are “officially” the most popular vegetable, at least according to a recent survey carried out by the Idaho Potato Commission and reported here in Agricultural Weekly. Ok, so the Idaho Potato Commission mightn’t be the most independent of sources when it comes to potatoes, so you may care to take their survey results (as you might their potatoes) with a rather large pinch of salt. Still, there’s no denying that the humble spud is a popular guy with a global reach, which may be the reason that there’s any market at all for such heart-shaped specimens. I have to say that I wouldn’t have any great inclination to grow such novelty tubers myself, though.

No, I have finally acquired my seed potatoes for this year from the nice people at Mr. Middleton’s and nary a heart-shaped Franceline among them. Instead, I have 3 different varieties of early potato, laid out in trays in my shed, where conditions will hopefully be cool and light enough to encourage them to sprout (or chit, in potato parlance), the aim being to encourage earlier and heavier cropping. In the collection, I’ve got some grand ol’ Duke of Yorks, some floury yellow Colleens and a Scottish heirloom variety with dark purplish skin and purple ringed flesh, known as Shetland Blacks. These last, in particular, will be interesting. They are, I gather, floury and with good flavour, but reportedly turn a nasty grey colour on boiling. Alan Romans, cultivator of a great many heirloom potato varieties, has been quoted as saying that the Shetland Black is “Good boiled or mashed, but visually it is a bit unappealing. Blindfold the kids, whatever you do.” He could also have added that, at all costs, you should not present a plateful of these to your valentine. Not unless you care to blindfold them first too!

Sprouting spuds

Sprouting spuds

16 Comments

  1. I’m resigned to the lack of potato variety hereabouts so I will simply admire these lovely Francelines over cyberspace. But I’m not sure about the message of a heart-shaped ‘tater presented to a loved one: “Here’s my heart, pulled from the dirt and roasted for your consumption!” Hmmmm . . . sounds a little one-sided.

    I’m much more intrigued by the Shetland Blacks. Promise you’ll prep some when they’re harvested so we can see this extraordinary color transformation?

  2. I am loving that heart potato!!!

  3. Daily Spud

    Sunday, February 15, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Tangled Noodle: yeah, I’m not sure about the messaging there myself! As for the Shetland Blacks, I absolutely plan to see what happens when they’re cooked – will take pictures and post them, promise

    Reeni: it has got a certain charm :)

  4. I agree, would love to hear how you like those Shetland Blacks. We grew a purple-skinned potato a few years ago–Caribe, I think–but had only a couple pounds of seed so none made it as far as mashed potatoes; if it’s new potatoes we’re talking about, they may well be the favorite vegetable of my U.S. household at least!

  5. I’m on a mission to find some of the Shetland Blacks. I’m guessing they must have more nutritional content with the color? Well I’m a potato lover through and through and love all these new varieties I’m learning about by reading this blog!

  6. Daily Spud

    Monday, February 16, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    laura: I’m a bit like that when it comes to new potatoes myself – they rarely make it into mash but just get steamed and eaten whole – lovely!

    gastroanthropologist: I have indeed seen Shetland Blacks being described as having a ‘high food value’. You might also be interested (as I was) in this description from the BBC food site, which described them as “incredibly aromatic; the thick crisp skin releases superb flavours when eaten with its butter-soaked flesh.” If you’re looking for some to sample in the UK, then I believe Waitrose is the place to go (though possibly not this early in the year); as for Shetland Black seed stock, alanromans.com is the UK source;

  7. I just read this post and comments with an admiration. I wish I knew a lot about the species of potato. I understand once more that potato is not a simple vegetable. certainly not!

  8. Love the title & the photo.

  9. Daily Spud – I’m close to a Waitrose so I’ll check that out. Also my local sunday’s farmers market has a wonderful potato farmer that always comes with at least 15 different kinds so I’ll be questioning him next week!

  10. Oh, I have the most obnoxious idea for those heart-shaped potatoes. Thank you, Thomas Keller, for the idea. On a mandoline, slice them thin-thin-thin so you have near-paper thin hearts. Brush hearts w/clarified butter. Press between 2 Silpat to keep flat and bake until golden brown and crisp. Heart shaped potato chips (crips, do you guys call them)?

    a)I told you it was obnoxious.
    b)Happy belated Valentine’s Day:)
    c)Looking forward to the heirloom updates!

  11. Perfect Valetine’s day timing! Those potatoes look so fun. Makes eating taters even better.

  12. I love the heart shaped potao! I had no idea it existed, thanks for wriing about it!

  13. The shetland blacks sound very interesting. I’ve noticed that adding some vinegar to the water when boiling some types (like the blue ones) intensifies the color. I wonder if that would help these ones at all?

  14. So – wait maybe I missed this – are these heart-shaped potatoes naturally shaped like this (e.g., due to some nutty love-struck farmer selecting for heart-shaped potatoes) or are they somehow “formed” (e.g., the infamous Japanese square watermelon?)

  15. Wow a market for these eh? I say a potato is a ‘tato if they taste good, and of course they are!

    I am ready for a bowl of some mashers right now…

  16. zerrin: there is certainly a lot more to potatoes than meets the eye!

    Ange: ta muchly

    gastroanthropologist: good luck on your quest :)

    Jenni: gee thanks; now, as for your heart-shaped crisps, I reckon they’d be pretty special in a “you really shouldn’t have” kind of way :)

    Duo Dishes: fun is the name of the game :)

    veggiebelly: you’re welcome!

    Marc: I’ve also read that baking the shetland blacks will help to preserve the colour; suffice to say there will be a lot of experimenting once I have any kind of harvest

    Megan: as I understand it, they are encouraged into this shape by some kind of molding during growth – normal Franceline potatoes are not heart-shaped

    Chef E: absolutely, if they taste good, that’s the main thing!

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