If someone asked you to name the most expensive foods in the world, you might come up with caviar and truffles and that sort of thing. But you probably wouldn’t think of potatoes. And yet there is a type of French potato that is so rare and delicious that it sometimes fetches a whopping $300 a pound—as much as Kobe beef!
La Bonnotte – the world’s most expensive potato
La Bonnotte potatoes are grown on Noirmoutier Island, a little speck in the ocean near the city of La Rochelle in Charente-Maritime. The island is famous for its potatoes and La Bonnotte is especially prized. It’s only grown on a tiny plot of land and just a few tons are produced each year, which is one of the reasons it is so pricey.
The soils of Noirmoutier are sandy and not easy to cultivate and La Bonnotte is so delicate that it must be harvested by hand. Farmers fertilize with a combination of seaweed and algae, and the people of Noirmoutier think that’s what gives the Bonnotte its distinctive taste. That and the salty sea air.
What does La Bonnotte taste like? It’s usually described as slightly lemony, with a salty aftertaste and a hint of walnuts (though some people insist that it’s chestnuts.) This rare beauty should never be peeled because its delicate skin is what absorbs those unusual marine flavors.
By tradition, La Bonotte is planted in early February, on Candlemas (La Chandeleur in French, the day everyone eats crêpes) and is harvested 90 days later in early May. La Bonnotte is only available for a few weeks every year, so those lucky enough (and wealthy enough) to buy some need to be quick before the supply runs out. Here are some recipes if your rich aunt happens to send you a few.
For those of us with more limited budgets, there are three other kinds of potatoes grown on Noirmoutier Island: the Sirtema (white flesh and a sweet taste), the Charlotte (yellow with a firm flesh), and the Lady Christi (the steamed potato par excellence).
Keith Van Sickle splits his time between Silicon Valley and Provence. He is the author of One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence and Are We French Yet? Keith & Val’s Adventures in Provence. Read more at Life in Provence.