Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fingerling Potatoes

Fig. 1   Fingerling Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum)

Fingerling Potatoes are small, narrow, and elongated potato tubers in their mature stage.  Some varieties resemble the shape of fingers (Fig. 1), hence the term fingerling.  Other varieties have distorted shapes because of deep eyes (Fig. 3) but they still count as fingerling because they meet the size.  Fingerling potatoes range from one to two inches in diameter and with lengths ranging from two to three inches.  

Fig. 2   Assorted varieties of fingerling potatoes in various colors

Posh price for posh potatoes.  Fingerling potatoes have now become popular in upscale grocery stores.   They are turning up on the featured entrées on menus of fine restaurants in big cities.   The novelty of their petite size, unusual colors (including deep purple) and texture provide extra drama on the otherwise traditional potato.  Its posh position in the modern culinary world is reflected on its price tag.  Try going to the stores and compare the price against the other potato varieties and you will come up with a price that is three to five times more expensive.

Fig. 3   Etiolated sprouts grown in the dark.
From my pantry to my garden.    From time to time we would buy a bag of fingerling potatoes from Costco - but this time the tubers started to sprout before we could eat them all.   They were stored in a dark corner of my pantry hence the etiolated white sprouts (Fig. 2 and Fig. 3).  Etiolated sprouts are not fit for planting because of their lack of vigor.  So I placed them in a tray by the window sill to expose the tubers to diffused-light.  After ten days the sprouts looked more sturdy and vigorous  producing the necessary pigmentation (Fig. 4).   Now, that is the appearance of a seed tuber that promises a good crop (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4   Green and vigorous sprouts - qualities of a good seed tuber.
Sometimes the pantry can be a source of planting materials. 


Bom said...

Interesting. I've never tried planting potatoes. Will you be doing a post on potatoes that have already started to sprout?

Karin / Southern Meadows said...

I love fingerling potatoes, especially the purple ones. Hope you will post after you have grown them in your garden. I have never attempted to grow potatoes but want to try.

Helen Lewis said...

Bom --
Yes, I will definitely make a follow up post. In fact they are already about two inches off the ground when I visited them today.

When I was in the Philipines I worked on potato research. Outside of the cooler mountain-areas like Baguio and Bukidnon, there is a very short window when you can actually grow potatoes potatoes successfully (December to March). However, it is possible. We had a reasearch station in Canlubang before and we were growing potatoes reasonably well.

Helen Lewis said...

Karin --
Try it sometime. It is not really that intimidating. They are very easy to grow. I will try to post some of the basics of growing potatoes in the near future.

Sisah said...

I like the way you name these type of potatotoes...fingerlings..My experiments with different type of potatoes always take place in a very small dimension, you must have heard of John Seymours way of cultivating potatoes in a barrel, I do that every year with a different type of potato. This year it is Asparges, a danish potato and it is also a fingerling potato :

p3chandan said...

Cute looking but cant imagine eating the dark purple ones! My first try with potatoes failed, just a few leaves then they died off! Would love to try again but dont seem to have fingerling potatoes in our supermart.

Helen Lewis said...

Sisah --

The term "fingerling potatoes" is not original to me. According to legends it dates back in the sixteenth century when a European farmer (it could have been your great great great grandfather, who knows)was pulled one of his potato plants grom the ground and was amazed to see finger-like tubers dangled from the plant.

I am guessing that "fingerling" is a mere English translation of what has been the original term.

Hope you have great success with your 'Asparges'. I've heard only a little bit about this French potato variety, also known as 'Ratte'. They say it is hard to grow but let me know how it will perform in your garden.

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Oh, one of my favorite subjects...potatoes! I love fingerlings too, especially as their waxy texture makes for wonderful potato salads in summer. We just replanted our favorite Rose Finn Apple fingerlings the other day. They're so easy to grow that sometimes I wonder why they're so expensive. I've never ventured to planting market potatoes though, as I'm always concerned about unwittingly bringing disease into the garden.

Anonymous said...

They have recommendations here in New York about not planting those bought in the grocery store for the chance of spreading potato blight. It is a recommendation by the cooperative extension. But I am going to have to try them in potato salad like Curbstone Vally Farm suggested.

Helen Lewis said...


Potato blight is an air-borne disease. It is a fungal disease that likes to proliferate in humid places -- maybe like New York? :)

The farmers who produce commercial table potatoes AND those who produce seed potatoes are both very careful as to guard their crops from any hint of potato blight or other diseases. Because any disease in a given season can reduce current yields and can potentially affect the next season's crop. Furthermore, growers try so hard to release produce that are clean in order to reduce their loses and save their credibility as suppliers.

Seed-tuber certification process focuses on "reducing" the build up of disease by following prescribed control measures during the growing period of the crop. This is implemented through a series of inspections. But there is no guarantee that the tubers you get will be be disease-free. Diseases come not only through the seed but also through water, air, and handling.

For my small Mediterranean garden, healthy-looking tubers are good enough as planting materials. I've always planted potatoes in my garden and I have not seen one case of potato blight - so far. Diseases will or will not happen. There are measures that can be done to maintain healthy potatoes but I will discuss that in another post. :)

I'm sorry but I love to talk about potatoes. :)

Plant Chaser said...

That is great. You have to teach me then, please. Do I have to wait until December though?

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