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Carolas are back!

December 19, 2015

We’re a potato family. To the starchy core. The sandy loam soils of Penobscot county, stones and all, have grown hundreds of millions of pounds of potatoes since Farmer Stew’s family started growing potatoes on the homestead in Exeter.  And, not wanting to mess with tradition, it’s a rare night where we don’t have some form of potato on the table at supper time.

With generations of potato consumption behind us, it might be hard to imagine us still getting excited about a particular variety – but Carolas have done it. I’ve written about it here before, but we think the Carola potato is something special and we’re glad to have a really great crop to share with our customers this year.

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The Carola is a yellow fleshed potato – similar in it’s versatility to more familiar gold potatoes like the Yukon or the Keuka, but it’s different from those old standbys in two big ways. First, the shape. The Carola is neither round like a Yukon or long and skinny like a fingerling, but somewhere in between – a little oblong and sometimes a little funky looking. I think the shape is an advantage – the little nooks and crannys get extra crispy when you’re baking, but they’re not so odd as to make it difficult to cut even pieces. But second, and most important, is the flavorAll potatoes are not created equal. It’s creamy and fluffy and buttery and smooth and all of those other adjectives you could possibly imagine attaching to a good potato.

The Carola is a German variety originally, that came to North America with the influx of immigrants to upstate New York and the Midwest. Despite being one of the best tasting varieties we’ve ever encountered, it hasn’t really taken off in commercial production, largely because the Yukon Gold has cornered the yellow-fleshed market with high yields that net big returns to farmers. A friend of ours told them about how tasty they were, so we took a look around to see if we could find some seed. We started growing them just in time, the Maine Potato Seed Board was just about to discontinue its Carola seed production program. We bought the last 1000 pounds of certified seed ever grown in Maine and gave it a shot. Potato bliss. Mashed, roasted, fried, baked, steamed, potato pancakes, everything. We have not found a recipe yet where Carolas don’t shine.

Fast forward 5 years, we’re the only commercial grower we know in the country who is producing Carolas at scale. Some of our customers know and love them and ask their produce managers when the Carolas will be ready. Well – they’re ready! We’re shipping them out in 5 lb. plastic bags to stores all over the state and in 50 lb bags to our restaurant friends, check with your produce department to see if you can get some Carolas in to your neighborhood grocer too.

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