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Mezame potatoes are small and petite in size and are elongated, oblong, and spherical in shape, averaging only two ounces in weight. The smooth golden-brown skin contains a few, shallow eyes and there are bumps and indentations across the surface creating a lopsided texture. The flesh is deep yellow and firm, dense, viscous, and moist. Mezame potatoes offer a nutty, sweet, and creamy taste similar to that of chestnuts and sweet potatoes.
Mezame potatoes are available from late summer to early spring.
Mezame potatoes, botanically classified as Solanum tuberosum ‘Mezame,’ are a relatively new variety from the Japanese market. Also known as the Inca No Mezame, the Mezame potato is a hybrid variety bred specifically to thrive in the cold climate of Japan and is traded at a high price because of its unique sweet and nutty taste. Today, as a result of their short dormant period, their small size, and low productivity, their production has been limited to Japan and are harvested predominately in Hokkaido, an island off the coast of Japan that produces over 80% of the country’s potatoes.
Mezame potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B1, potassium, and niacin.
Mezame potatoes are best suited for cooked applications such as grilling, roasting, baking, or frying. They can be added to soups, curry, stews, croquette, potato salads, and baked goods. Mezame potatoes can hold their shape well when cooked and will not deteriorate when added to soups. Mezame potatoes pair well with burrata cheese, pork, poultry, shiitake, and caramelized onions. It is important to wrap them in a newspaper or put in a paper bag and store them for a couple of weeks in a cool, dry, and dark place. If they do sprout buds, make sure to remove them with a knife before cooking.
The name Mezame pays homage to the origin of its parent potato hailing from the southern Andes, the name translating to “the awakening of Inca.” Mezame potatoes are popularly used in the Japanese dish known as nikujaga, which literally translates to “meat and potatoes.” Considered a comfort food, this dish uses thinly sliced beef, potatoes, carrots, onions, shirataki noodles, and snow peas with flavorings including soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and sake. Nikujaga is predominately cooked as a home meal and may have slight variations from family to family.
The Mezame potato was first created in 1987 at the Hokkaido Agricultural Experiment Station. In 2001, it was registered as a new breed in Japan. The Mezame is a hybrid variety created from a cross between the katahdin and varieties of potatoes native to the South American Andean region. Today Mezame potatoes can be found at local markets and grocers in Japan.