Let’s take a detour into our community garden, which, by the way, was featured on Deutschland radio on Wednesday morning. More importantly, the evening before, Marko harvested our potatoes! To give you some context, above is one of our baby potato plants back in in May, just starting to sprout out of its hill. Read on to see how the potatoes look now…
This was our first time planting potatoes and we used seed potatoes from the semi-annual Staudenmarkt (perennial market) at the Berlin Botanical Garden. I chose these potatoes even though they are the tricky, late-season type, because they have the most amazing colors. One kind not only has red skin, but also bright-red flesh, while another has dramatic bluish-purple skin and matching flesh. I somehow forgot to note their names, but I know they are traditional, old cultivars.
We also tossed in some Lindas which I had actually bought for eating purposes, but which had sprouted in the cupboard before they could be cooked. Linda has become a cause celebré among advocates of sustainable farming in Europe in recent years, due to a complicated legal conflict. I admit that, to this day, I still don’t fully understand the whole problem, but basically, the German company that held the license to sell Linda seed potatoes refused to renew the license, and then tried to prevent organic farmers from renewing the license themselves. Organic farmers and advocates started campaigns to “Save the Linda” and finally managed to register the cultivar in the UK. My question: would the potatoes live up to their hype?
Well, on Tuesday, August 2, less than three months after the first picture was taken, Marko dug this enormous pile of potatoes out of our small vegetable bed. It was a little early for the red and purple potatoes, which are supposed to keep growing until fall, but a spate of terribly rainy weather had caused the potato tops to wilt prematurely. And when potato tops rot, it’s time to dig out the potatoes
The Lindas (the yellow ones in the picture) are by far the biggest, larger than any German supermarket potato I’ve ever seen and bordering on the size of smaller Idaho russets. The purple ones, suprisingly, seem to be mature already, round and smooth, though on the small side. The red ones clearly could have used some more time, as some still look more like gnarly roots than something to eat. Some of the red potatoes still have yet other little potatoes growing off the sides! (visible in the top right of the pile).
But the most important thing: how did they taste? Well, delicious! And almost as importantly, I think, they look delicious. As the Germans say “Das Auge isst mit” (the eye eats too). I think colorful food tastes so much better than white and brown food, don’t you? Last night, we roasted the potatoes, plus some yellow and red tomatoes from the garden, with some purchased vegetables and feta and had us a nice rainbow-colored dinner.
Here’s the recipe the way I made it, though you can use any combination of colorful vegetables you find at the local market, such as eggplants, bell peppers, yellow beets. This makes a juicy, sauce-y, wet-roasted pan of vegetables.
Rainbow Roasted Vegetables
4 small, colorful potatoes
1/2 head of broccoli
Handful colorful cherry tomatoes or plum tomatoes
1/2 pound brown button mushrooms
1-2 red onions (I used a bunch of red cipollini with green tops)
4 cloves garlic
1 package soft feta
White wine (I used Grünen Veltliner, an aromatic Austrian white)
3 Tbsp mediterranean herbs mixed together (I used oregano + rosemary + basil), with some red pepper flakes to taste
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
2. Wash all vegetables except mushrooms and garlic. If the potatoes’ and carrots’ skins are unbruised, just scrub them with a brush instead of peeling. Trim any brown spots off mushrooms and wipe away any dirt.
3. Crush, peel and dice the garlic. Cut all other vegetables into fairly large chunks in pleasing shapes. The tomatoes, mushrooms and cipollini bulbs can be left whole unless they are very large.
4. Put vegetables in a large casserole dish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, about half the herb mixture and a few glugs of white wine. Toss together, adding enough olive oil to coat generously (up to 1/2 cup).
5. Roast for about 40 minutes, stirring once or twice, until about vegetables are just tender.
6. Then take your feta, coat top with remaining herbs, drizzle with a little olive oil, and pat lightly so that coating sticks. Then cut into 1″ cubes.
7. Take the casserole out of the oven briefly, stir once more and dot with feta. Return to oven for just 5-10 minutes more – until the vegetables are just right and the feta is slightly melty.
8. Serve, with the rest of the white wine and maybe some crusty bread.
Thank you to Marko for all the great photos shown in this story!