Fun Potato Trivia
In 2010, Wisconsin was the number three overall potato-producing state. Idaho ranked number one and Washington number two. According to the USDA, “Americans consume almost 130 pounds of fresh and processed potatoes annually... 40 pounds more than tomatoes, the next most eaten vegetable. Over 50 percent of potato sales are to processors for French fries, chips, dehydrated potatoes and other potato products...” With that last stat in mind, please read on, and then come in and try our fresh, local, organic potatoes.
There are literally thousands of varieties of potatoes grown throughout the Americas and the world. We in the Produce department will be filling the shelves with five different locally grown organic bulk potatoes this fall season. Here are the ones that were selected and some recommended uses for them.
Russet potatoes are usually large and good for a large potato dish: they can be baked, mashed, French fried, or pancaked. Russet potatoes don’t have a particularly strong flavor, so when baking them add some flavor. Top with steamed veggies, guacamole, fried onions and mushrooms or if mashing them use some garlic for a little zest.
Red potatoes are often used in gratins, soups, chowders, pan-fried, or in salads; they hold their shape when cooked, but are not the best for mashing.
Carola potatoes have a buttery/earthy flavor and due to their firm texture, are easily used for grilling, roasting and pan-frying.
Gold potatoes have a rich flavor and can be mashed, used in soups, steamed, or used in potato pancakes. Be careful not to overcook gold potatoes, as they can get mushy.
Fingerlings are lower in starch than your typical potato, and can be used in purées, pan-fried, roasted, boiled, or used in salads.
Choose the size and texture of a variety of potato that best matches what the dish you are trying to prepare. When storing any potato keep them in a well-ventilated, dry, dark space and at a temperature between 40-50ºF. A 5.3 ounce potato will contain 45% of the Vitamin C that one needs daily, 620mg of potassium, trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, and zinc. Preparation methods will affect how many of these nutrients reach your belly (and then small intestine). Potatoes carry most of their nutrients in their skins; when preparing a potato dish, think about the dish’s texture and if you can leave the skins on, do so. Baking or steaming potatoes would be the healthiest way of consuming these wonderful veggies. With the holidays upon us, it is also a good time for trying a dish that might be a little more indulgent than one you would normally make.
Where Potatoes Come From
This year, Vermont Valley Community Farms located in Blue Mounds will provide us with our bulk potatoes, and Igl Farms from Antigo, Wisconsin will be keeping us stocked with five-pound bags of red, gold, and Russet potatoes.
David Perkins of Vermont Valley took time out of his busy harvest season to share information on seed potatoes. Each potato you eat this year was grown from a two-ounce cutting of the same variety that was grown specifically for seed. Vermont Valley is the only organic/certified potato seed grower in the Midwest. To earn this distinction, the grower must meet certain production and storage practices set by the strict Wisconsin State Seed Potato law. To make sure they are in compliance with the law and meet “a foundation seed standard,” their fields are inspected twice during the growing season and once in storage. Samples of every seed “lot” are taken to Florida, grown and tested for disease. The intended result in producing a certified seed potato is to have the lowest amount of disease or no disease in each piece. The farmer pays for all of the costs included in the testing process.
There are state and “self” regulations that both organic and conventional growers must meet in regards to disease, size, visual appearance and processing traits. David finds it odd though that “there is no standard for eating quality; our primary concern is the eating experience; big, small, round, square... who cares. Is it good?” Other farmers growing in our region will pick up about half of Vermont Valley’s 120,000-pound, six-acre potato harvest. That is 60,000 pounds of seed potatoes that won’t have to be shipped in from California or Idaho. That is amazing and is a resource that I’m thankful the local farming community provides us consumers. By providing the Produce department with locally grown potatoes and other growers with locally grown seed, Vermont Valley greatly reduces the amount of resources that will be going into our potato dishes this season.