IDAHO NATIVES ENDURE A LIFETIME of potato-centric nicknames. But somehow folks here in Washington—which grew an estimated 10 billion pounds of potatoes in 2007, making it the nation’s second-largest potato producing state—slip by untuberized. But with growers like Brent Olsen popularizing more interesting, delicious varieties here, things may change.
“We are in a potato revolution,” says Olsen,
owner of Olsen Farms in Colville, Washington, where he digs 25 different kinds of spuds out of the ground each year. Olsen’s taters come in brown, white, red, yellow, blue, pink, and purple (the brightest skins have the most antioxidants), and they are a far cry from the beige blobs of your youth: cutting open a Purple Majesty reveals a tie-dyed swirl of intense indigo shades and when you roast a Mountain Rose, the insides look just like rose quartz.
Certain potato varieties work better for certain things, says Brent’s sister Nora Olsen,
a potato specialist at the University of Idaho. Scientifically spuds are measured by their dry matter—the starches, proteins, fibers, sugars, and minerals that make up the bulk of the vegetable. Red-fleshed Desirees and Dark Red Norlands have high dry-matter content that helps them fluff up when cooked, so they’re best for baking and mashing. Those with low dry matter, like the finger-shaped Austrian Crescent, hold their shape well when boiled for salads (to keep colors bright when boiling, add a tablespoon of vinegar to the water).
This article appeared in the January 2008 issue of Seattle Met.