Ark of Taste
Garnet Chili Potato
The modern potato, mangled by frying and seed homogeneity, pales in comparison to the rainbow of varieties it once was. Like maize, potatoes originated in South America, specifically Peru, and served as a staple of agriculture and diet there for centuries due to its cultiv-ease, its high protein content and its yum, yum, yum-i-ness. In the mid-1500s, conquistadors from Spain brought the humble potato to Europe where it took root and became an important European, and eventually American crop. But disease and blight in Ireland and New England threatened food security and begged scientists and amateurs alike to solve the problem of the shriveling potato.
The unlikely champion of many modern American potatoes came in the form of an amateur scientist and man of the cloth, Reverend Goodrich. Fascinatingly, the reverend was described by his peers as a man without a “hardy enough constitution for eating potatoes”, and take that as you will, but this did not stop him from investing $200 dollars and 16 years to find a hardy variety that would thrive in New England’s growing conditions. By 1853, the Garnet Chili Potato was the winner of these experiments due to its hardiness, prolific growth and disease resistance. DNA fingerprinting has shown the Garnet Chili potato to be the mother of no less than 150 varieties of potato grown in the 21 st century in America and Europe.
The Garnet Chili Potato prefers cool weather, well draining fertile soil and full sun. Its starchy, earthy character lends it particularly well to potato salads and gratin, making it a perfect choice from a summer barbeque and a fireside winter meal alike. With its flaky pink skin and cream-white middle, it is an attractive option for chefs and home cooks to dazzle their guests with a storied, ancestral, heirloom variety of potato unique from the plentiful “Russet”.
So why has it fallen out of favor? Proponents of so called “ugly vegetables” will tell you that its deep eyes which cause shoppers to shy away, are windows into it’s a deep and tasty soul. Discarding it for this defect would be like throwing away a good, old book for its creased edges; the old story of the cover belying the wonders inside. Thanks to Goodrich’s experiments, the work of finding a hardy variety of potato has been done for us, but as of 2016 only one seed supply company in Colorado has this particular variety for sale. Find it, grow it and eat it in all seasons to revive its popularity and demonstrate the beauty beneath the skin!