Perhaps you've seen them at farmers markets or on restaurant menus and wondered what new potatoes are and what makes them special. These freshly harvested young and small spuds are sweet, waxy, and loaded with moisture. They grow anywhere potatoes thrive and are harvested in spring and early summer, depending on your climate. In potato salads or boiled with a bit of butter and herbs, they are pure perfection.
What Are New Potatoes?
New potatoes are not a variety, per se; any potato that is harvested early in the season can be called a new one. Eaten in warmer weather, they feel special, maybe a bit of a novelty, as we tend to identify this veggie with winter. They're dug up on purpose before they get bigger, so they can be enjoyed for their delicate thin skins, high moisture content, and sweet flavor. They are lower in starch compared to their mature counterparts and keep their shape well when cooked, which makes them especially well suited to room temperature preparations.
Potatoes are typically one of the most economical foods you can buy, and the same goes for new potatoes. They don't require any extensive preparation. After all, these are potatoes—one of the most humble, versatile, and nutritious vegetables nature offers.
How to Cook With New Potatoes
All these tubers need is a gentle washing to remove excess dirt, which may also remove some of the skin. That's OK; the skins are thin and don't need peeling, but it's also fine if they come off a bit. These potatoes beg for simplicity and to be served with the best of the spring/early summer offerings. They're delicious when boiled simply and tossed with butter and fresh herbs such as chives or parsley, and hold up beautifully in picnic potato salads.
What Do They Taste Like?
Much in the same way that freshly picked corn is so much sweeter than cobs that have been sitting around for a few days, new potatoes are sweeter than potatoes that have been sitting in storage for a while.
New Potato Recipes
If you are lucky enough to find them during the short time in which they are harvested and available, eating these potatoes is a treat. It's no accident that the methods that best suit them are easy and won't overheat your house as things warm up outside. That being said, any small potato will work in a recipe that calls for new potatoes, but red and fingerlings share the most similar characteristics with new ones. They become creamy if you boil them and are delicious when drizzled with an herb-infused olive oil. When you roast them, their thin skins become pleasantly crispy.
That same tendency to keep their shape means that new potatoes don't make great mashed potatoes, but you can use them to make "smashed" potatoes, which can best be described as a lazy, halfway approach to mashed potatoes. The skins stay on and the potatoes don't get completely mashed, which keeps some of their texture.
Where to Buy New Potatoes
Farmers markets and specialty grocers are bound to sell them loose/in bulk or in dry pints in late spring or early summer, depending on your climate. Look for smooth, undamaged, and unblemished skins. The potatoes should be dry and feel firm. Avoid potatoes that have soft spots, bruising, or seem damp. Skin that is starting to flake away from the potato is fine—that's the price of such youth and delicacy.
New potatoes are freshly harvested, and a bit of dirt demonstrates that they really are new ones and not just small potatoes that have been sitting in storage. If you've got a green thumb, you can certainly grow them yourself; they should be ready to be plucked them from the vine about 2 to 3 weeks after the plants stop flowering.
Because they have such thin skins and high moisture levels, new potatoes don't store quite as well as more mature potatoes. Keep them in a paper bag or loosely wrapped plastic and use them within a few days of buying.
Don't be tempted to wash them before storing them. That bit of dirt clinging to their skins will help keep them fresh, and any water on the outside will hasten bruising and softening. They need a little extra TLC.