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Why Are Purple Potatoes Purple? (And What Can You Do with Them?)

Why Are Purple Potatoes Purple? (And What Can You Do with Them?)
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Purple potatoes look great in your garden or on your dinner table, and they’re actually quite healthy for you. Common varieties of purple potatoes include Purple Peruvian, Purple Majesty, Purple Fiesta, Vitelotte, All Blue, Adirondack Blue, and Congo.

Purple Peruvian is consistently purple throughout the skin and flesh. Purple Majesty is perhaps the most intensely purple of all the purple potatoes.

Purple Viking has a purple skin with pink and red splashes, and a white-fleshed interior. Purple Fiesta is solidly purple throughout.

Purple Pelisse is a fingerling potato that has been bred to be purple. All Blue, also known as Russian Blue (not to be confused with the purebred cat of the same name), is a heritage potato with deep purple skin and a purple-and-white streaked interior.

Adirondack Blue is a relatively large purple potato with a deep bluish skin and a purple interior. Midnight Moon has purple skin and yellowish flesh.

Purple potatoes can be substituted for more boring potatoes in pretty much any recipe that features potatoes. They have a taste and texture similar to the more common russet potato except that they are somewhat moister and denser, and a bit earthier.

Read on to learn more about the fun purple potato.

They’re Good for You

The nutritional profile of a purple potato is also similar to the russet potato, with 70 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrates per half-cup serving. Potatoes themselves have no fat, although most potato recipes do call for added butter, oil, and other fats.

What potatoes do have is plenty of fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin K, potassium, manganese, and copper. They are tasty and filling.

Enjoying purple potatoes may reduce blood pressure and promote good blood vessel health. This is likely due to the high levels of potassium and antioxidants in purple potatoes.

In a small study, people who ate six to eight purple potatoes twice a day saw both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings drop by approximately 4%.

Choosing purple potatoes may also reduce arterial stiffness. When arteries can dilate more easily, the risk of heart attack and stroke is reduced.

Purple potatoes also have a slightly lower glycemic index than yellow or white potatoes (although it is still considered on the high side). This means that it is less likely to raise a person’s blood sugar.

This may be because of the higher concentration of polyphenols in purple potatoes. Polyphenols may decrease the absorption of starch in the intestines, which results in less impact on blood sugar levels.

Rats who were fed purple potato extract developed better glucose tolerance and improved blood sugar levels in both the short- and long-term.

Eaten with the skins, purple potatoes provide a fiber known as resistant starch, which resists digestion but makes it to the large intestine where it ferments. This fermentation process produces short-chain fatty acids that are known to benefit gut health.

Interestingly, potatoes that have been cooked, chilled, and eaten cold have the highest concentrations of resistant starch. Potato salad for the win!

However, the most significant nutritional difference between purple potatoes and other potatoes is that purple potatoes have four times as many antioxidants as other potatoes.

Antioxidants prevent or slow down damage that free radicals cause to cells in the body. Free radicals, or reactive oxygen species, are waste substances produced as cells react to the environment and process food.

This kind of oxidative stress (which free radicals prevent) is linked to cancer, heart disease, stroke, emphysema, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, immune deficiencies, cataracts and macular degeneration, and other inflammatory conditions.

Antioxidants serve as free radical scavengers and help neutralize the dangerous free radicals. There is no recognized high end for antioxidants, meaning that the more you consume, the better.

It’s also important to consume a broad variety of antioxidants. Purple potatoes are rich in anthocyanins, carotenoids, and flavonoids.

The compounds in purple potatoes, including antioxidants, have killed cancer cells in laboratory experiments. This has not yet been tested in humans or animals.

Men who consumed 150 grams of purple potatoes every day had reduced markers of inflammation and DNA damage compared with control groups who ate potatoes of different colors.

So, Why Are They Purple?

What are those anthocyanins and carotenoids mentioned above? They are the substances that make purple potatoes purple.

They are a part of the potato’s chemical composition and genetic makeup, so purple potatoes are purple all the way through. Both the skin and the flesh of the purple potato are purplish.

The skin of a purple potato is darker than the interior. Depending on the variety and the growing conditions, the skin color can range from bluish-purple to dark enough to appear black.

The interior flesh is usually a very vibrant purple all the way through, but it may also be marbled or mottled with white streaks.

Purple potatoes usually have smooth skin and a smooth to slightly indented shape. Their eyes are shallow to medium.

They retain their color even after cooking, although certain methods of preparation dull it slightly. Still, purple potatoes stay purple, and that can be a lot of fun at a family meal.

The purple skins are safe to eat too, just the same as any other type of potato skin. In fact, this is one of the old wives’ tales that’s actually true.

The skins of potatoes are probably the healthiest part. Almost half of the fiber in a potato comes from the skin, and many of the nutrients are also concentrated in the potato skin.

Where Do They Come From?

Potatoes, also known as Solanum tuberosum, belong to the nightshade family of plants. They grow underground.

Potatoes were first cultivated in the Andes mountains of South America, and the purple potato is native to this region as well. They are generally available all year around, although there may be less availability.

South American cultures considered purple potatoes to be a “food of the gods.” In the 17th and 18th centuries, Spanish sailors discovered the potato and used it to ward off scurvy on long sea voyages (remember, potatoes are high in Vitamin C and Vitamin C prevents scurvy).

This brought the purple potato to Europe. They became popular in the United States in the mid-1980s and have experienced a recent resurgence since they look great on social media.

What to Do with Purple Potatoes

Purple potatoes are similar in taste and texture to russet potatoes. They can be substituted into your favorite potato dishes easily.

Purple potatoes are generally better boiled or fried than baked, although again, they are very versatile little tubers. Their taste is slightly nutty and earthy, so they are not especially delicate and they stand up well to seasonings.

As a rule, purple potatoes retain their distinctive coloring when cooked, although sometimes the skins darken so that they appear more black than purple. Boiling the potatoes can fade the purple a bit, but they are still unmistakable.

Cooking purple potatoes in butter or oil makes them glisten and shows off the coloring the best, although it does compromise the health benefits somewhat. Still, olive oil is a healthy fat and tastes delicious with potatoes.

If you’re looking for dishes that showcase the unique coloring, read on for some suggestions.

Purple Potato Roses: Slice the potatoes thin, coat with olive oil and seasonings, and microwave the slices until they are tender. Roll the potato slices into little rosettes, place them in greased muffin pan cups, and bake.

Twice-Baked Purple Potatoes: Bake the purple potatoes and (if needed) cut off one bottom end so that the potato stands upright. Hollow out the potato, mix the baked flesh with cheese and sour cream, pipe it back into the upright hollowed-out potato, and bake until browned.

Purple Potato Hash Browns (Hash Purples?): Grate raw purple potatoes and squeeze out excess water. Cook in a heavy pan with butter or oil, chopped onion, salt and pepper, and a dash of paprika.

Savory Mashed Purple Potatoes: Cut the potatoes into chunks and boil them in salted water until they are tender. Mash with butter, sour cream, and seasonings.

You can make this with skins on or off, depending on your personal preference. Potato skins are very healthy, though, as described above.

Purple Potato French Fries: Cut purple potatoes into strips, soak in cold water, rinse, and dry. Deep fry or air fry until crisp, and then salt and season as desired.

Purple Potato Soup: Cut up purple potatoes and an onion, cover them in broth or stock, and cook until tender. Puree with an immersion blender, add cream, and season to taste.

Purple Potato Chips: Wash potatoes and slice as thinly as possible, preferably with a mandolin. Deep fry or air fry the potato slices until they are crispy, then salt or season as desired.

Roasted Purple Potatoes and Cauliflower: Cut purple potatoes into chunks and cauliflower into florets. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and herbs, and roast in a shallow oiled pan.

With this recipe, you can use plain white cauliflower or you can even find purple cauliflower as well for a truly spectacular dish that you’ll be proud to serve.