Maybe you’ve seen them at the farmers market or in your regular market—purple potatoes. They go by names such as Purple Peruvian, Peru Purple, Purple Fiesta, Purple Majesty and Purple Passion. You get the idea. Purple. Some “purple” varieties may even look blue, such as Adirondack Blue. The first time you cut into one, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that inside it is a pretty shade of purple, blue or lavender.
Here’s an even better surprise—anthocyanins, the compounds that turn these spuds purple, may protect you from colon cancer. In the latest study, researchers induced colon cancer in mice and gave one group a baked purple potato extract and a control group a standard painkiller. Results: In the mice given purple potato extract, colon cancer stem cells, which spread the disease, were suppressed—and colon cancer cells were more likely to die. Other studies have linked anthocyanins to prevention of other cancers (and heart disease). Purple potatoes are particularly rich in anthocyanins, which are also found in berries, red and purple grapes, red wine, cherries, eggplant and red cabbage.
COOKING WITH PURPLE POTATOES
Purple potatoes are just as versatile as the bag of russets or red potatoes in your pantry, and they’ll add a pop of color to your meal. With a medium starch level and thin, tender skins, purple potatoes resemble white-skinned potatoes with their creamy, dense texture, but they have a slightly earthier taste. Whether you roast, steam or sauté them, they’ll hold their texture after cooking. Boiled, they’ll mash to velvety perfection. They’ll make your next potato salad a colorful affair, turn a puréed potato soup a lovely pastel color and liven up a potato gratin.
Here are two mini-recipes and a wonderful frittata recipe that bring out the best in purple potatoes…
Garlic Mashed Purple Potatoes and Cauliflower
Steam chopped purple potatoes and cauliflowerets until tender. Mash with a little of the cooking water, salt and pepper. Then spread in a shallow baking dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, and bake until hot.
Roasted Greek-Style Purple Potatoes
Cube 1 pound of potatoes or cut into wedges, and toss with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon of dried oregano, ½ teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground pepper, and 4 whole unpeeled garlic cloves. Roast at 400°F until potatoes are browned and tender, about 30 minutes. Squeeze garlic from bulbs and add back to potatoes; toss with a little more lemon juice and fresh parsley. Serve hot.
RECIPE: MEDITERRANEAN PURPLE POTATO FRITTATA
This easy-to-make dish will dazzle your guests first with the bright purple color and then dazzle them again when they bite into it and taste its earthy goodness. It’s also packed with even more cancer fighters—onions, thyme and turmeric-rich curry powder.
Yields four to six servings.
- 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, cut into ¼-inch slices
- 1 pound purple potatoes, peeled and cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices
- ½ teaspoon curry powder (optional)
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt, divided
- 2 Tablespoons minced fresh thyme
- 8 whole eggs
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Heat a 10-inch, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add oil and arrange onion slices in skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned and just tender, about 20 minutes. Arrange potato slices over onion and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of water over vegetables, then sprinkle with curry (optional) and ¼ teaspoon salt, turning to coat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until potatoes are just fork-tender, about 10 minutes.
Preheat the broiler.
Whisk eggs just to blend, and stir in ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Pour into skillet, sprinkle with thyme and arrange potato mixture in a single layer. Cook over medium heat, until set on bottom, about 10 minutes.
Transfer skillet to oven and broil 6 inches from heat source until browned at edges and set all the way through, 5 to 8 minutes.