Tuesday, 18 January 2011

River John Blue Potatoes and Purple Majesty Potatoes

River John Blue Potatoes
Two more potatoes from our trip to Pinehaven Farm: River John Blue, above, and Purple Majesty, below.

Purple Majesty Potatoes
I was very interested to try these two potatoes. River John Blue were particularly exciting since they come from the same part of Nova Scotia as one branch of my family. On the other hand, the Purple Majesty are said to be the darkest of the purple (blue) potatoes. As you can see from the photo, they were indeed very dark, darker than the River John Blue, although there is enough light being reflected from the cut sides of the River John Blue that in their photograph they seem lighter than they were.

To try these, I just boiled a couple of each potato in separate pots. Interestingly, by the time they were done they were very similar in colour; a medium lavender shade. The water from cooking the Purple Majesty was positively turquoise while the water from the River John Blue was a muddier shade. However, practically no difference was seen on the plate.

So far as flavour, they were also very similar. Like other blue or purple potatoes I have had, these both had a slightly minerally quality, but would be recognized by anyone as being potatoes. The Purple Majesty were perhaps just a tad smoother in flavour.

Apparently blue potatoes have the same anti-oxidants as blueberries. Also, according to the Potato Research Centre in New Brunswick the potatoes known as Congo, British Columbia Blue, McIntosh Black, River John Blue, Sharon's Blue and Nova Scotia Blue are all genetically identical. I've seen All Blue added to this list in other places, but having grown the All Blue I would have to say they seem fairly different; if nothing else they have been selected for a smaller, rounder shape.

According to OMAFRA, River John Blue is very susceptible to scab, and you can see that the potatoes we got have quite a bit of scab. They also have those little round black spots that potato growers assure us are "just dirt". I think that is right, but certain potatoes seem more susceptible to these intensely dark dirt-spots than others. My theory - and I would be happy to be corrected - is that some varieties of potatoes exude sap or juice as they grow, and cause dirt to be "glued" to their skins. These spots of dirt are then rather hard to scrub off.

Purple Majesty potatoes were bred at Colorado State University by David Holm. They are not genetically modified - a question a number of people seem to have about them - but were developed from other, older varieties of potato, including All Blue.

I have not been able to find much more about them, although a little Googling showed that they were grown in Scotland in large quantity last year, and sold through Sainsbury's (a major British grocery chain) with a very aggressive marketing campaign. All the news sources I found had the same story practically word-for-word; obviously a press release from either Sainsbury or the grower. Hurrah for modern journalism. Oi.

On the whole, I think (alas) that the Purple Majesty are probably slightly the better potatoes, but if they are patented, and I think they might be, I will be just as happy to stick with the River John Blue or All Blue potatoes.


Mr. H. said...

Beautiful potatoes, we grow the Purple Majesty and All Blue but I have never heard of the River John variety...sounds like a good one. Interesting information about the antioxidants in potatoes, I did not know that. I think that your dirt-spots are Black scurf, we have the same issues with ours on occasion, still nothing to worry about as far as edibilty goes though.:)

Ferdzy said...

Ugh, I think ou are right about the black scurf.

Not surprised you haven't heard of the River John Blue. It was locally popular in Nova Scotia but pretty much unknown anywhere else, at least by that name. Most of the blue potatoes do seem to be related.