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Jul 26, 2010 10:35 AM

ISO Potato varieties in SF: Nicola, Linda

I've been consistently disappointed with the varieties of potatoes available at SF farmers markets. At Alemany the potato guy sells just the stuff I can get at safeway: yellow fin, idaho, fingerling, reds, purples. Sometimes I can get German butter potatoes at another stand.

Why the dearth of heirloom and other potato varieties? In a city where I can find 4 types of radichio at the corner store there are no heirloom potatoes in the farmer's market?

In particular i'm looking for Nicola potatoes - A thin skinned, oblong, waxy, extremely yellow fleshed and sweet potato with a flavor that's quite different form regular potatoes. They're waxier then even red potatoes and the sweetness reminds me of carrots. As a plus it's a low glycemic potato.

The names "Nicola" and "Linda" are German - for some reason German potatoes are mostly named after women. I don't know what the English equivalents are.

But I'm interested in sources for potatoes from central and eastern Europe. Are there secret stores in the Richmond? A potato "underground" source?

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  1. I would check with Berkeley Bowl. They carry the most varieties of everything. If it's available commercially, they'll have it. Otherwise, you might have to grow your own -- potatoes are ridiculously easy to grow even in cool-ish climates (which is why they so quickly became the staple food in Germany and Ireland).

    Berkeley Bowl
    2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

    2 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Looking for something in SF proper.

      I thought about growing them but i'm on the third floor with no outdoor space.

      1. re: boris_qd

        At the SF Ferry Plaza market, there is a guy who sells unusual and delicious potatoes. His stand is 2-4 stands north along the aisle anchored by Marin Sun Farms at the south end of the north-south aisle. He told us Thomas Keller buys potatoes from him--probably to distract us from the high prices.

    2. Variety matters, but also the manner of farming. Have you tried the dry farmed, freshly dug potatoes from Oh Tommy Boy's? Some seasons they have grown as many as 30 varieties, but with the amount of rain we've had, might have cut down. You could call to see if they come to any of the farmers markets in San Francisco, or check them out when you visit Sonoma County.

      Oh Tommy Boy's
      5880 Carroll Road, Petaluma, CA 94952

      1. Nicola is grown by David Little at Little Farm in Petaluma. He dry farms amazing potatoes including Nicola...I think my favorite potato. He sells at the Ferry market as well as Marin and some east bay markets. Potato harvest will begin late August. These are very special potatoes!

        2 Replies
        1. re: cakebaker

          They are tasty. I agree.

          But they're not listed on the webpage you posted (lots of other potato varieties are) - unless they go by a different name.

          1. re: boris_qd

            I know he doesn't list Nicola on his website but I assure you he grows them. I buy them from him regularly when they are being harvested.

        2. The potato guy at the Ferry Plaza market often has Nicolas, but hasn't harvested them yet this year. I buy them frequently when they are available. Right now his variety is somewhat limited, so I think the main harvest is later in the summer/ fall.

          Now... if only I could also get Piper Maris in SF, which I only saw once at the market in Sebastopol.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Joan Kureczka

            Oh! Tommy Boy's sells at the Sebastopol market later in the year, so that might be the farm. The Petaluma-Tomales area is considered prime potato farming area. An oldtimer told me that Potato Patch outside the Golden Gate is named for the potatoes from this region that fell off the barges sailing through the chop into the Bay.

            Oh Tommy Boy's
            5880 Carroll Road, Petaluma, CA 94952

            Little Organic Farm
            1855 Tomales Petaluma Rd, Petaluma, CA 94940

            1. re: Joan Kureczka

              Are you talking about Maris Piper potatoes? They're what we've been looking for - my husband is from the UK and we've been searching in vain for them for ages now.

              We'll have to check out Little farms and Oh! Tommy Boy's...thanks all!

            2. A quick potato update. Nicola potatoes are available at the Castro Farmer's market on Wednesdays. I bought 10 lbs. a couple weeks ago and saw them last week. I'm pretty sure it's the "Happy Boy Farm" stand but actually didn't look at the sign I was so excited about the potatoes:

              Last year after posting I also found them at the Ferry terminal market (I think at Little Farm) but haven't been recently to check (I might have to fix that).

              I haven't seen LInda potatoes anywhere.

              The also sell a variety called "German Butterball" but I'm pretty sure I've never seen those in Germany under that (or similar) name. Any ideas what these might be (in German)?

              1 Reply
              1. re: boris_qd

                I get the feeling that the German in GBP is gratuitous.
                Golden to tan potatoes with yellow flesh usually offer a superior flavour whether they are starchy or waxy in texture. Their firm consistency and pronounced sweet flavour make them a favourite. Some named varieties include: Bintje, Butte, Carola (Carole), Concord, Charlotte, German Butterball, Island Sunshine, Onaway, Yellow Finn (Yellow Finnish), Yukon Gold.