Fall back, spring forward. Daylight Saving Time (DST) was Mr. Ben “Early to bed, early to rise” Franklin's suggestion of a way to economize on candles in 1784. In our era of compact fluorescents it’s the loss of sleep we notice, and it might be hard to realize any cost benefits. Nonetheless DST is a good bi-annual reminder to look up from our artificially-lit world and notice the sun's position and it's effect on our day.
The humble potatoes in our TakeHome boxes have their own DST alarm clock. As tubers they slumber in rich pillowy soil. Tubers swell up and store nutrients, as opposed to roots, which stretch out collecting nutrients. After its initial growth, the above-ground bush withers, and the below-ground potato matures. The farmer digs up the spuds, transferring them, dirt covered, into a dark and cool barn. The potatoes are cured for a bit, which makes the skins hardier. This is their twilight sleep.
Potatoes grown organically are not sprayed with sprout inhibitor chemicals, so after they see the light, well, sprouts happen. To prevent this, store them in the dark, but not the fridge. Extreme cold (like frost) makes the starch in spuds turn to sugar, which makes them taste odd, unless you are making vodka. Potatoes should be washed before use, and the occasional sprout can be flicked off. If your potato turns green, however, it has been exposed to light and should be peeled, as it will taste bitter.
The lovely taters in our TakeHome boxes this week are Russet Burbanks, created by the extremely prolific botanist Luther Burbank (1849-1926). This potato was one of his first experiments in Lunenburg, MA. Burbank was a pioneer in plant breeding, and created 800 varieties of plants including the Shasta Daisy and the Plumcot. He was also the progenitor of the Plant Patent Act, securing rights for plant breeders. Burbank sold the rights to his Russet Burbank potato in 1875 for 150 dollars and bought a farm in Santa Rosa, CA, where he continued his life’s work. The Russet is probably the most popular all-around potato, widely used for French fries and hash browns for Spring Forward Sunday Brunch.
- Heidi Lewis