I remember the first time I saw the Stokes Purple® Sweet Potato. A sweet potato grower that we buy from in Northern California sent us a sample and asked us what we thought about the potatoes. He said it was a unique variety that he had been experimenting with and he wanted our opinion.
And I know why he thought about us. Ever since my mother started our company in 1962, our official color has been purple. It all started when she was ready to launch her business on the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market and she needed a sign. She looked up the name of a sign painter in the Yellow Pages. When she showed up on Monday morning, the sign was painted a pale lavender. The sign painter claimed it was the only color on his truck.
Personally, I think it was because my mom was the only woman on the produce market and he wanted her sign to have a feminine touch!
Well, ever since then, we’ve adopted purple as our signature color. And, funny thing, over the last 50 years, it seems that most people in our industry associate the color purple with Frieda’s Specialty Produce. It’s kind of cool.
So, of course when a sweet potato grower found a purple variety, he would call us to do his sales and marketing.
When we first got the Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes, I wanted to get a chef’s opinion. So I called one of my friends and dropped off some samples. A few days later I went to his house and he told me that they were not very good. He cooked them several ways, but especially after he microwaved them, they turned out very dry. He didn’t recommend them.
Defeated, I went back the office and met with our team. In the back of my head, I knew these potatoes were unique and amazing. So, as we brainstormed in our office, we came up with the idea of taking the potatoes to another chef for a second opinion.
Chef Alan Greeley of The Golden Truffle in Newport Beach and I have been friends for years. We’ve worked together many times. He’s a little bit crazy and super creative, so I knew he would be able to tell us if we should invest our resources and time in marketing these purple sweet potatoes.
Thank goodness we went to Chef Alan! He told us they were the most amazing sweet potatoes he’d ever tasted. The secret is in the cooking method—low, slow, then rest.
Chef told us to wrap Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes in aluminum foil and bake them at 350 degrees for one and a half to two hours, longer than regular orange sweet potatoes. Then, he said, to let the potatoes rest for a few hours, still wrapped, before serving. He actually suggested refrigerating them overnight like that.
One of our favorite recipes is a potato salad with a chipotle vinaigrette, using those chilled potatoes. I’ve even served this one for Thanksgiving dinner and it is always a hit.
Even Julia della Croce, a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, got in on the fun and made beautiful Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi for the holidays.
Stokes Purple® Sweet Potato season just started last week, and supermarkets and chefs across the country have been loading up their stores and restaurants, as this has become of the hottest and most popular “healthy” new foods to hit supermarket shelves in years. The potatoes’ dark purple color means they are high in anthocyanins, a special antioxidant. And unlike other vegetables, they do not lose the antioxidants’ viability when they’re cooked!
So, if you want to try Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes for yourself, just go into your local market and ask for them by name.
And, about Chef Alan, he was just named Orange County Chef of the Year by the Orange County Business Journal. We had lunch a few weeks ago to celebrate his accomplishment!
Thank you, Alan, for all you do to make food taste great!