Greek Potatoes, Hard to Imagine a Greek Table without It
Potatoes in Greece had a comic, telling start. Legend has it that the New World crop arrived, during the tenure of Greece's first Prime Minister, Ioanis Kapodistrias, in the 1820s. The ever shrewd politician understood the nutritive value of the potato, but also understood the innate suspicion of his countrymen, when confronted with anything at all supported by the state. So, he ordered that a shipment of potatoes be kept under lock and key overnight in the, then, capital of Greece, Nafplio. Needless to say, the next day the potatoes had been stolen. Thus began Greeks' love affair with the humble spud.
Now, it would be hard to imagine the Greek table without potatoes. They play center stage on daily, as well as festive tables. Everyday fare might include a heaping platter of Greek fried potatoes, fried de rigueur in olive oil. Potato salad is another classic on the daily table, and there are regional variations to be found all over the country. Potatoes form the base, too, for several of the best-known Greek dipping sauces, such as taramosalata and skordalia. As for Sunday and more special-occasion fare, nothing is quite as sating as a plate, full of luscious Greek roasted potatoes, redolent of lemon juice, garlic, oregano and olive oil. What to say, too, to the classic, irresistible Greek version of mashed potatoes, imbued either with butter or olive oil. Sometimes, a little grated kaseri or tangy crumbled feta is added to the mixture.
In Greece, though, it was not until very recently that different varieties of potatoes were available in supermarkets. It used to be that one bought, more or less, whatever one could find. There still is little distinction made between a boiling and a baking potato, but now one can find small red potatoes, new white potatoes, specific baking potatoes (imported from France), even blue Peruvian potatoes. Naxos potatoes are still considered the best in the country, and for a long time there was a specific Naxos variety. High labor and cheap hybrids have diminished both supply and demand for the regional specialty potato. Thiva is another major potato producer.
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