Boil It Up

By Susan Olcott

St. Patrick’s Day may be the perfect holiday for provisioning from local farms in Maine. It’s no coincidence that Maine and Ireland both have a plethora of root vegetables including those needed for the upcoming holiday. We share a similar climate that is cool and moist with good soil for growing things in the dirt. And, because both climates have a short growing season, it is traditional to store vegetables harvested in late fall well into the winter. I won’t belabor the different types of root vegetables you can “chunk up,” as I covered that in my last blog. But, as a sort of follow up, maybe this could be called, “Boil It Up.” The traditional St. Patrick’s Day boil includes cabbage, potatoes and carrots, all of which can be procured from local farms. Let’s start with the potato – a major staple both in Ireland and in Maine. Today, trees grown by timber companies have replaced much of Maine’s acreage originally designated for potato growing. But, back in the 1940s, there were over 200,000 acres of potatoes – compare that to just over 60,000 now.  However, potatoes are still a major crop and much celebrated in seasonal events like Aroostook County’s summer Potato Blossom Fair.

But, all potatoes are not created equal. Last year at this time I went to the Farmer’s Market to stock up on St. Pattie’s veggies and was stymied by the number of potato varieties. Luckily, Cathy at Fairwinds Farm kindly helped me navigate the options. Fairwinds has a well-stocked booth both at the Friday afternoon Winter Market at the Topsham Fairgrounds as well as the Saturday morning market at Fort Andross. Fairwinds is a neat example of the way that Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust has worked with farms to provide easements for growing local food – this one is on a 19-acre easement along the Cathance River. When trying to make my potato selections, I easily recognized Russets, which I knew were good for baking, and multi-colored fingerlings, and bright purple potatoes, which I knew were delicious roasted. But, then there were about six other lumpy forms, some pink, some blue, some brown, some tan. I picked a few small red new potatoes to start, as those were also familiar. Then, Cathy suggested that I might add some small tan Satinas, named for their smooth texture and lovely rosy-skinned Red Golds – pink outside and buttery yellow inside. These were less starchy, she told me, and would hold up well to boiling. Also, intrigued by the idea of mixing up the vegetables in our boil, I added some parsnips and rutabagas to my bag. Finally, Fairwinds happens to have grain mixes of various sorts including Oatmeal flour, which I picked up a bag of for making soda bread.

Here are a few simple recipes with good local ingredients to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Enjoy!

Roasted Mixed Potatoes

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 ½ lb small roasting potatoes (try mixed fingerlings and purple potatoes – pick the round ones so they are similar in size to the fingerlings)

1 t lemon zest

1 large sprig fresh rosemary

1 t Kosher salt

½ t black pepper

2 T olive oil


  1. Heat oven to 400 F.
  2. Cut round potatoes in half and fingerlings in half horizontally (not top to bottom).
  3. Toss potatoes with lemon zest, chopped rosemary, kosher salt and pepper.
  4. Place cut side down on a baking sheet.
  5. Roast for 20 minutes, gently shaking the pan halfway through so as not to turn the potatoes, but to keep them from sticking too much to the pan.
Mixed Boiled Vegetables

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 small head cabbage

4 parsnips

4 carrots

1 lb. mixed potatoes (satina, rose gold, red new potatoes)

½ lb. rutabaga

1 T kosher salt

1 t black pepper corns

¼ c apple cider vinegar

½ bottle of Guinness

1 cup vegetable or beef broth


  1. Fill a large pot with water. Add 1 T salt and 1 t black pepper corns. Bring to a boil.
  2. Cut parsnips and carrots in half lengthwise. Cut cabbage into quarters and skewer with a wooden kebab skewer to keep from falling apart. Cut potatoes in half. Peel rutabaga and cut in half or quarters if very large.
  3. Put into a large pot. Add salt, peppercorns, cider vinegar, Guiness and broth. Add more water if needed to cover the vegetables.
  4. Boil for 20 minutes or until all vegetables are tender.
Irish soda bread

Ingredients (Serves 4)

3 c all purpose flour

1 c oat flour

1 t salt

1 t baking soda

1 1/2 c buttermilk plus more if needed

1 T butter melted

Optional: 2/3 c currants or raisins, 1 T caraway seeds


  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  1. Mix regular and oat flour, salt, and baking soda together. Add raisins and/or caraway seed if using.
  2. Make a well in the center, and add buttermilk.
  3. Stir together with a wooden spoon. Add more buttermilk if needed to form a lumpy, rough dough.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes.
  5. Shape it into a round disk and place it on a baking sheet.
  6. Cut a cross in the top. Lightly cover the surface with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5-10 minutes more until the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it.
  7. Brush with melted butter. Cool for 20-30 minutes.