February’s full moon is known as the “Hunger Moon.” It wasn’t so long ago that people would face empty larders at the end of winter (in undeveloped countries people are still at risk for seasonal starvation). And even though these days relatively few Americans are at risk of dying for want of food, by the end of winter our bodies are longing for the spring tonics of early bitter greens, sunshine and best of all, the warm brown scent of thawing earth.
Which may be why potatoes are such a comfort to us during these dreggy days. They smell of the earth, don’t they? And they even taste of it in a good way – elemental and solid. Too, potatoes are one of the few vegetables (they’re actually a tuber) whose flavor improves with storage. According to Harold McGee, author of my favorite book of kitchen science, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, during proper storage (in the dark at temperatures between 45 and 50 degrees) the enzyme activity in potatoes “generates fatty, fruity, and flowery notes.” Continue reading