Growing Purple Potatoes

What are purple potatoes? They are natural varieties with deep purple skins and flesh, high in antioxidants which makes them extra healthful to eat.
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How to Grow Potatoes 05:02

Joe Lamp'l shows how to plant, grow and harvest potatoes.

Purple potatoes, also known as Peruvian purple potatoes, have naturally purple or deep blue skin and flesh, and are unusually high in antioxidants which makes them super healthful. Their unique colors come from natural anthocyanin pigments; some Peruvian potatoes are naturally purple, while others are bred for deeper shades.

They come in different shapes, textures, and sizes; some are small or fingerling varieties, others can be harvested either while small as new potatoes or allowed to grow into large into baking sizes. With a lot of variation between each variety, a purple potato can taste similar to any other potato – its color does not cause any special flavor. Some varieties lose a bit of their pigment when boiled, but retain the colors when fried, broiled, baked, or mashed.   

Purple Potato Varieties

Purple Peruvian is purple throughout and produces well late in the season. Purple Fiesta is a mid-season specialty potato which retains its color when cooked. Purple Viking has a true purple skin with pink-red splashes, and snow white flesh which gets sweeter during storage. Purple Majesty is perhaps the most intense dark purple variety. The small Purple Pelisse is a fingerling potato that has been altered to produce a deep violet color.

Because there is only the slightest difference in shades of deep blue and purple, many of the best purple potatoes have blue in their name. One of the most common is Adirondack Blue, large and oblong with deep blue skin and purplish flesh. Unlike some others, it keeps its colors when boiled.

All Blue potato, also known as Russian Blue, Blue Marker, Congo, and several other names, is a heritage potato with a characteristic deep purple skin and a purple flesh streaked with white. Midnight Moon has nearly purple skin and a moist, golden yellow flesh.

Growing Purple Potatoes

Grown like other potatoes, purple strains, being original South American strains, usually thrive in harsh conditions and are often resistant to diseases. Potatoes need seven or eight hours of sunshine, well-drained moist soil, and good fertility. Apply an all-purpose fertilizer at planting and a little more when the plants are about half grown. Plant potatoes during cool weather when there is no danger of a freeze but when temperatures remain below the mid-80s which reduces tuber formation.

Find “seed” potatoes online, but order early while supplies last.  Before planting, cut seed potatoes into small pieces, each with one or two small “eyes” or leaf buds. Plant about three inches deep and a foot apart in rows, hills, raised beds, or containers.

Potato tubers sprout from short stolons on the lower stems of leafy plants, but must be kept in total darkness to avoid greening in the sun, or a poisonous plant alkaloid called solanine can build up. Prevent this by piling soil or thick mulch around young plants, repeating as needed until six or eight inches of lower stems are buried.

Harvesting Potatoes

Small or “new” purple potatoes can be harvested about three months after planting, but for larger, mature tubers wait until plants turn yellow, or cut the mature plants down about four months after planting and then dig the tubers. Dig gently to avoid cuts and bruises; do not wash, just brush off soil.

Store mature tubers in a cool, dry, dark area for up to four or five months, checking regularly for shriveling and decay.

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