While the potato may be one of the world's most important crops, it is by no means the only underground vegetable to be enjoyed. Buried Treasures: Tasty Tubers of the World edited by Beth Hanson (Brooklyn Botanic Garden Handbook #188, 2007) "unearths" the story of the amazing variety of edible tubers, tuberous roots, corms, rhizomes, and bulbs cultivated around the world. Broadly classed as edible "geophytes," or plants that store energy in fleshy underground parts, the crops covered range from such familiar plants as sweet potatoes to exotic offerings like devil's tongue, an eastern Asian native that is widely cultivated in southern China and Vietnam and which produces black-skinned, spherical corms that can weigh as much as 22 pounds! There is even information on foraging for wild geophytes such as cattail rhizomes, and nutsedge and tawny daylily tubers. Recipes are included. Did you know that dahlia tubers are edible? Whip up a batch of dahlia tuber quick bread and see if anyone can guess your secret ingredient! The handbook is available at from BBG at http://www.bbg.org/gardening/handbook/buried_treasures/ for $8.95.
Favorite or New Plant
Red and Blue Potatoes
For the most nutritional benefit, purple and red fleshed potatoes are the way to go. In fact, red and purple potatoes that have not been stored for long periods can deliver antioxidants on par with blueberries and grapes. A recent study found that one half of a recently harvested, baked purple potato has as many colon-cancer fighting compounds as three and a half recently harvested white potatoes, 600 potato chips, 45 blueberries, or 25 grapes. Two colorful varieties that are well-adapted to our region are 'Adirondack Red' and 'Adirondack Blue'. The red variety forms oblong tubers with deep red skin and pink to red flesh that hold their color when cooked and store well. The blue variety has deep purple skin with solid purple flesh. Both are early to midseason ripening and are available from Johnny's Selected Seeds at johnnyseeds.com.