The Sweet Potato Project: Conclusion
When my colleague Donna Garlough revealed that she had a direct (and, ahem, illegal) line to some prime Okinawan potatoes from Hawaii, I jumped out of my chair. These, of course, are the best sweet potatoes in the world: bright purple, sweet like candy, dry and fluffy like Yukon Golds, and impossible to find in Boston markets (or so I thought—more on that later).
I first tasted them in San Francisco, where I spent the past couple of years. There, the potatoes are sold in Asian markets (and grown commercially in limited quantities). They were my daily breakfast when I was on vacation in Hawaii, and I had missed them dearly since moving back East.
Now, thanks to Donna’s mom, I had three beautiful specimens to cook, and a favorite recipe to resurrect. It came from Sunset Magazine, where I once worked, and it’s incredibly simple: potato slices topped with lime butter and sea salt.
The recipe calls for boiling the potatoes whole, then peeling and slicing them. To save time, I peeled and sliced first. The potatoes lost a bit of their color during cooking, but that was fine—I was impatient. Next, I stirred lime juice and zest into some melted butter and poured this sauce over the slices. With a sprinkling of bright orange Hawaiian sea salt (available at some health food stores and gourmet shops—you can substitute any sea salt), my dish was complete.
The potatoes were as good as I remembered—sweet, sour, salty, and tender—but they only made me hungry for more. On a whim, or in desperation, I called Russo‘s, the terrific produce/specialty store in Watertown. “Odd question for you,” I said. “There are these purple potatoes from Hawaii…”
“Oh yeah, Okinawan sweets,” said Tony Russo, the produce manager. “We get them in sometimes. You want some? Lemme call you back.”
Wha? All this drama—illegal packages from Hawaii, complicit mothers—for nothing? Apparently, yes. Tony got back to me a short time later with some great news: he’d have them in tonight.
And so, we’re in potato heaven, and that’s where we’ll stay. Tony says there are some gaps in availability throughout the year as growing seasons wax and wane, but he can find them most of the time with a little advance notice.
I’m going to pick up my order tomorrow, and Tony says he plans to keep more Okinawans in stock through the Easter holiday. “We’ll see how they do,” he says. So go, buy, eat! We’re counting on you.