One popular trend in cooking is the harvesting of young or immature vegetables, as in the case of very young peas or baby corn. Immature potatoes harvested during the spring or summer are called new potatoes, or sometimes creamers or fingerlings. They are not a separate variety of potato, but younger versions of other varieties.
The skin of new potatoes is generally thinner and flakier than the skin found on older potatoes, so they are rarely if ever peeled before cooking. Restaurants and cafeterias use special machines with rotating abrasive wheels to remove some of the peel, but home cooks may just want to wash the small potatoes thoroughly and keep them unpeeled.
Because new potatoes are very small in size, they are well-suited to boiling and roasting. Boiled ones retain their shape and texture, and they can be seasoned to match the overall tone of the meal. New potatoes can also be used in slow-cooked meals such as traditional Yankee pot roast.
There are several things to consider when buying new potatoes. Grocery stores often sell them individually or by the bag. Buying individual potatoes for a single meal can guarantee less waste, but is generally more expensive than buying by the bag. Bagged potatoes can spoil quickly if not stored properly, however, and occasionally small stones can get into the mix.
Because they have very thin skins, these young potatoes are also prone to sun damage. A sunburned potato has a green patch under its red or yellow skin. This patch contains a poisonous chemical, so cooks should either discard the entire potato or cut out the discolored area entirely before using it. It only takes a few unchecked sunburned potatoes to cause food poisoning.
It is also possible to find sprouts growing from the eyes. Some farmers use new potatoes as seed potatoes, but these sprouts are not good news for cooks, who should discard any potatoes that have them in substantial quantities. Some bruising is to be expected with any immature vegetable, but large soft patches and dark spots may be signs of disease or rot. Bags of potatoes should be stored off the floor, preferably in a dry, dark storage bin.