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Potatoes and Yams

Some of the basic staples of my family's fall and winter diet are potatoes and yams. Fall brings a virtual cornucopia of new crop, freshly dug varieties and with that new crop we reintroduce some favorite ways of preparing them at home. Potatoes and yams (or sweet potatoes) are one of the largest and most geographically diverse crops produced in the U.S. Many of the large-scale organic producers are concentrated on the west coast, so regardless of where you live you will likely see some Washington or California product in your store. But all over the U.S. there are large and small producers that provide varieties often unique to the region where they are grown. Ask our Team Members in your store's produce department if there are potatoes and yams local to your area. I have two basic preparation methods for potatoes and yams: roasted and mashed. The method I use depends on the variety I happen to buy. For yams I tend to stick with the lower oil content Garnet and my process is simple. I slice them into long narrow strips (like steak potatoes), brush them with olive oil and roast them until they are soft to the touch. I like the Garnet variety because it is not as heavy as the Jewel but both can be prepared in the same way. For potatoes, I start them all the same way regardless of how I finish cooking them. All my potatoes get partially cooked by boiling - I find this saves me roasting time and helps to keep the potato moist. One of my favorite roasting potatoes is the fingerling. There are many varieties (like the Russian banana and Ruby Crescent) but most are small "finger" shaped potatoes that are perfect for the oven. I will boil them for 20 minutes or so, drain and let them cool, then slice them lengthwise into a mixing boil. To add flavor, I heat a dressing that is equal parts olive oil and butter combined with some chives, parsley, oregano, and minced garlic and toss the potatoes in it. I then lay the potatoes flat on a cookie sheet and grate some Parmesan over top. In the oven they go at 375°F and 25 minutes later, heaven comes out. Yams curing in the field Mashing is the second most popular method with my family and I've found a combination of russet and red potatoes gives me the best results. These get cubed and boiled a bit longer than my fingerlings and I add a similar herb/oil/butter mixture, including with it some milk or chicken broth. I like a creamy mashed potato so I will use my blender to take out lumps after I have mashed them. For a variation in flavor I will also occasionally throw in some cubed celery root or rutabagas when I'm boiling my potatoes. This not only changes the flavor slightly but lightens the texture as well. (Celery root mashed potatoes are great with salmon). Happy Fall!