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Wednesday, November 30, 2005 

Just Spuds?

Maine Is Busy Praising the Potatoes

But these are not ordinary potatoes, said Mr. Evans, who grew up near Boston and cooked at the French Laundry and the Inn at Little Washington before settling in Portland in 2000. "I've never worked with so many different kinds before, so many textures," he said. "The Carola has this creamy flavor, the Butte is light and silky. I never thought Maine produce could compete with California, and the ingredients are not as opulent, but all you have to do is pay attention."

To distinguish their potatoes, these farmers have embraced a raft of ideological labels: organic, local, sustainable, heirloom, slow, artisanal, gourmet and farm-to-table. Instead of growing an industrial potato suitable for long-term storage, transport or freezing, they say they grow a culinary potato.

"There are literally hundreds of potato breeds to choose from," said Jim Cook of Skylandia Farm, at the northern tip of the state. "We grow the 50 that do best on the plate."