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Vitelotte potatoes are petite tubers that have an elongated, narrow shape similar to that of a fingerling potato. Its body is cylindrical with irregular bumps. Its exterior skin ranges from dark nearly black purple to a deep violet-blue and is speckled with deep set eyes. Underneath its dark purple exterior lies a smooth, dark violet flesh that is occasionally speckled with white. The coloration of the potatoes will vary depending upon the location of cultivation. When cooked the Vitelotte retains its vibrant purple hue and offers a dry, floury flesh with nuances of chestnuts.
Vitelotte potatoes are available year-round.
The Vitelotte potato, botanically known as part of Solanum tuberosum is a purple-hued potato variety. Also marketed sometimes as Truffe de Chine, Négresse, Vitelotte Noir, Black Truffle or simply Purple potato the Vitelotte potato is known for its vibrant purple hue both of its exterior skin and interior flesh. In recent years, purple potatoes such as the Vitelotte have seen a boom in popularity as a result of research and marketing dedicated to promoting the nutritional properties of purple hued fruits and vegetables.
Vitelotte potatoes contain anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant that in addition to being a nutritional powerhouse is responsible for the purple hue of the Vitelotte potato. Vitelotte potatoes additionally offer vitamin C, iron, B vitamins, and minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, folate, riboflavin, and phytochemicals. Recent studies indicate that the phytochemicals in purple potatoes may be beneficial in lowering blood pressure. To best preserve the nutrients found in Vitelotte potatoes they should be steamed, baked or microwaved with their skins on.
Vitelotte potatoes should always be cooked and can be used in many preparations that call for conventional potatoes. They can be boiled, steamed, baked, microwaved, or fried. Used on their own or along with other potatoes they make for an excellent potato mash. Unlike some other purple-hued vegetables Vitelotte potatoes will retain their purple color even when cooked. Showcase their vibrant hue in potato salads or a roast of tubers. Vitelotte potatoes can be cooked and pureed to make purple-hued soups and sauces or fried to make purple chips and crisps. Their dry texture makes them ideal for use as well when making potato pancakes and gnocchi. Their flavor, color, and texture pairs well with garlic, beets, watercress, parsley, cherry tomatoes, avocado, crème fresh, olive oil, pancetta, white pepper, blue cheese, and balsamic vinegar. To store keep Vitelotte potatoes in a cool, dark place away from moisture and refrigeration. For best flavor and texture use within 2 to 3 weeks.
An early form of the Vitelotte potato is illustrated and mentioned under the name Négresse potato in Vilmorin-Andrieux’s 1905 book entitled The Vegetable Garden. As the potato gained popularity in 17th century France as a valuable food source, the royal court showed their approval by wearing the flowers of the tuber. Louis XVI wore the potato flower in his buttonhole, and Marie Antoinette was known to wear potato flowers in her curls and specifically the flowers of the purple potato as part of a headdress when attending balls.
Prior to receiving the name, Vitelotte potato, these vibrant purple tubers from which all purple potatoes stem from are believed to have originated in ancient Peru nearly 800 years ago. Their introduction to France is said to have occurred in the 19th century when they were also known as Vitelotte Noir and Négresse potato. Potatoes fist gained popularity in France in the 17th and 18th century after the Seven Years War when there was a need for a food source to help reduce post-war famine. Botanist and military chemist Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, who had been taken prisoner several times during the war, surviving during those times off of a diet of potatoes, encouraged the cultivation of the potato as a solution. Louis XVI granted Antoine-Augustin several acres of land outside of Paris to grow potatoes on, once planted he kept the farm heavily guarded which created a stir in the community as to what valuable crops might be planted there. Strategically one night he left the farm unguarded and just as he suspected local farmers came and stole plants which they began growing on their own farms. It was not long that the potato would become accepted as a food stuff in France and would even rise to achieve royal approval. Today Vitelotte Potatoes are grown predominately in France and the United Kingdom and enjoyed throughout Europe.