"The term 'new potato' has become ubiquitous and is overused, but a true new potato is a treat, and is fairly rare to find."
This moment, right now, is one of my favorite times in Northern California farmers' markets. I wish I had an unlimited budget to buy enough berries and asparagus to fill my Zipcar, and unlimited time to shell peas and fava beans so that I could have them in plentiful supply all year. It's a bright, colorful time to walk through the market. Flowers are in abundance, spring fruit is returning, and the fragrance of strawberries wafts through the stalls.
One of my absolute favorite things is making its debut right now: new potatoes. Many people don't think of potatoes as having a season, as they are cultivated by farmers and then put into storage so that we have them throughout the year. But market customers with a careful eye will notice first-of-the-season potatoes known as new potatoes.
The term "new potato" has become ubiquitous and is overused, but a true new potato is a treat, and is fairly rare to find. It's a potato that is naturally small and has a skin so thin that you can practically rub it off. They are rare outside of farmers' markets because they don't stand up to the rigors of movement and are relatively delicate. But if you can find them, I urge you to buy them and then race home to cook them and eat them nearly naked—with just a little salt and butter. They are sweet and have a high concentration of potato flavor. The photo above is of new potatoes I purchased from Full Belly Farm—the largest potato in that shot is approximately three inches long. The tiniest ones were the size of the tip of my pinky finger.
Cherries are returning to the market—I saw Brooks variety cherries today. These cherries are the harbinger of the cherry season, as they are more tolerant of cold weather than other varietals. I am extremely picky about cherries, however, and will hold-out on purchasing them until my favorite Bing cherries are perfectly in season. So I probably won't have any in my market bag for another couple of weeks. Our traditional season for cherries is from Mother's Day to Father's Day, so I expect the great ones to be coming into the market any day.
Alliums—spring onions, fresh shallots, green garlic, and pencil-thin leeks— can be found throughout all of our markets. It's a great time to make dishes that highlight these spring gems. I personally have been using them as background in my dishes, but will be working to integrate them in the next couple weeks before the flavor of them becomes more developed and aggressive.
Seasonal Produce Guide
In Season Right this Minute
New potatoes Strawberries Basil
Cherries Blueberries Apricots
It's Time To Put Up
Frozen peas Pesto Strawberry Jam
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