Potatoes are closely associated with mountain farming, even if their history in the Alps is relatively short. Having arrived in Europe from the distant Americas at the start of the 16th century, the spread of potato cultivation in mountain environments was slow and challenging despite their resistance to cold and nutritional value. Potatoes began to be grown in the Valle d’Aosta towards the end of the 18th century, probably thanks to trade with Piedmont, but the crop was not cultivated on a large scale until 1817, when a serious famine affected the region and pushed the population to turn to the tubers for sustenance. The fresh, well-drained, mineral-rich soil, plus a climate characterized by large temperature swings between night and day, have created the optimal conditions for their development. Among the traditional varieties grown in Valle d’Aosta is the Verrayes potato, which has a shiny purple skin with orange flecks. Its origins are not linked to a specific part of the region; though its name comes from a muncipality in the middle section of the valley, located at 1,071 meters above sea level just up from Chambave, this is not its typical production area. The unusual variety was named by a Swiss biodiversity foundation after it was contacted by a regional official from the town of Verrayes asking for help to protect the potato. This led to it receiving the name by which it is still known today.
The Verrayes potato is a tuber of medium size, with an irregular shape, knobbly with many deep eyes. The flesh is pale yellow, and some potaotes have a bright-red ring inside. The external ring, the most nutritious, is quite thick, an indicator of the potato’s excellent nutritional value. The flesh can be moderately or very floury, depending on the soil and climate characteristics of the fields where it is grown, but is always quite dry. The flavor is delicate, intense and persistent, characterized by a subtle sweetness and good sapidity. The seed tubers are selected by growers from the plants in the highest-altitude fields. Sowing begins in the second half of April and continues until the end of June, depending on the altitude. When the seedlings reach a height of between 10 and 20 centimeters, they are "earthed up," which involves covering the base of the plant with soil to control the growth of weeds, protect the underground part of the plant from dry conditions and help aerate the soil. The variety is quite drought resistant, so rainwater provides enough irrigation, and its hardiness means no other interventions are required as it grows. The maturity of the tubers is checked by rubbing a finger over the skin, which should not come off. The harvest begins at the end of August and continues to the first half of October. Once picked, the potatoes are packed in crates and taken to cool, dark storerooms. This is where the phase historically known as quarantena, or "quarantine," begins: The tubers are left undisturbed for at least 20 days, so that they dry out, stabilize and extend their shelf life.
The Verrayes potato is at its best when prepared in gnocchi, as mashed potatoes or gratinéed, but it is also delicious simply boiled and served with mountain cheese. Historically it was used as an ingredient in boudin, traditional blood sausages made with potatoes and beets.
The harvest runs from the end of August to the first half of October.
The Presidium producers have chosen to keep this name because it is part of the history of the variety over the last two decades, and in some ways it symbolizes the potato's rediscovery and the attempt by some Valle d'Aosta farms to revive and promote it. This commitment is part of a more general objective to safeguard the agricultural biodiversity of the Alps, which over the last 40 years has undergone a significant impoverishment due to a rise in cattle farming.
The producers have specified a production area: anywhere with an altitude above 1,000 meters within the region. They have also opted for a production protocol with strict agroecological practices; for example only mature manure can be used as fertilizer and plant protection products not allowed in organic agriculture are banned.
Altitudes over 1,000 meters, Valle d'Aosta region
Italian Ministry of Labor and Social Policies*
The Valle d'Aosta Verrayes Potato Presidium is funded by the Italian Ministry of Labor and Social Policies, Directorate-General for the Third Sector and Corporate Social Responsibility - notice no. 1/2018 “Slow Food in azione: le comunità protagoniste del cambiamento,” in accordance with Article 72 of the Third Sector code, as per Legislative Decree no. 117/2017.
di Paysage à Manger
Strada Castel Savoia , s.n.c.
Tel. 340 2736621 – 329 0741769
Carlo, Sergio ed Edy
Dell’Az. Agricola Favre Silvana
Fraz. Venoz, 2
Saint Barthelemy (Nus)
Tel. 349 6139097 (Edy Favre)
Sergio Giovannoni e Marisa Chiapin
di Ambiente Grumei
Tel. +39 3402736621