The History of Potatoes in Idaho

          Idaho Potatoes have made quite a name for themselves over the last century. From homemade mashed potatoes to drive-thru favorites, the Idaho Potato is included as a staple for many. The potato plays an integral part in the American diet as it accounts for around 15% of overall vegetable farm sales according to the 2015 Potato - Squash Consumption Statistics presented by the USDA. So when did the potato become such a big deal in Idaho? Some of the first potatoes introduced to the state were, in fact, planted in Northern Idaho. A man by the name of Henry Harmon Spaulding, a missionary, brought them with him in his travels. Though today, the largest potato industry in any one area and the title for ’Potato Capital of the World’, goes to the city of Blackfoot, Idaho. The city of Blackfoot is located in the Southeastern region of Idaho, with the nearest metropolitan city being Idaho Falls. The region is home to one of the largest ancient basaltic lava fields in the United States, as well as the winding waters of the Snake River. The Snake River waters are diverted through a canal system that networks it’s way across the Southeastern Idaho region, providing farmers with the essential water needed for yielding larger crops.

          It started back in the late 1800s when mining became a significant contributor in the state. Many visitors making their way through the area by means of the Oregon Trail, were making their way across the ranges and plains of Idaho in search of gold and silver. As the large numbers of people continued to grow, it created a demand for more food. Around this same timeframe, a freighter by the name of Henry Jenkins had brought cargo via a team of mules loaded with potatoes to the city of Eagle Rock, Idaho. Eagle Rock over the years and with substantial development and growth became what we now know as Idaho Falls. While there, Jenkins encouraged a gentleman by the name of Judge Stephans to plant and sell the potatoes.  Judge Stephans did in fact, plant the potatoes. Jenkins was noted as being in the region during the Fall when Stephan's first crop was ready to be harvested. The report was that they were hard as rocks. Even with the not so great news, this did not discourage locals and many of those in the surrounding areas, from continuing to establish and maintain the growth of potatos. The neighboring city of Blackfoot, Idaho now being one of the main contributors to the growth of these wonderful potatoes. One of the other contributors to Idaho’s substantial potato growth was the overall size of the potatoes that were being produced, and the total yield was astonishing in comparison to those across the other states.

          Today, potatoes coming out of Idaho are still making headlines and continuing to hold the title for being one of the main contributors in the agricultural industry. The potato, in large, is said to be the fourth most important crop in the world. Such titles are not earned easily. Discovering more information about this exciting and delicious vegetable is worth a stop at the Idaho Potato Museum, located in Blackfoot, Idaho. Enjoy potato facts galore, Spend a day delving into some of all the ways a potato is grown, cooked, and served. The museum boasts a wealth of information on the various methods to prepare the potato from slicing, dicing, spiralized, chopped, mashed, and many others. To the ways, a potato may be cooked, such as boiling, microwaving, baking, and frying. Potatos are also dried as well, making them lighter and more cost-effective to ship as they can get reasonably weighty. There is also a plethora of dish styles that a potato can be made into. A variety of dishes might include potato frittatas, perogies, potato pancakes, samosa, croquettes, potatoes au gratin, potato bread, shepherd’s pie, and of course potato soup, salad, and chips. If you get hungry during the tour, there is an onsite cafe ideal for enjoying the delightful potato as apart of your fun and exciting day of relishing in all things potatoes. You may consider searching for your next new favorite potato dish as there is so much to learn about the wide variety of ways to cook and prepare a potato.

         It is said that there are over 4,000 varieties of potatoes across the world today. Browsing the selection and variety of different potatoes can be fascinating. The potatoes range in a selection of diverse colors such as brown potatoes, red potatoes, purple potatoes, yellow, as well as white potatoes. There are also various textures that may be found in the world of potatoes that range from potatoes with rough skin, like that of the russet potato, to dimpled red thumb potatoes and the smoother skinned Kennebec potatoes. Those are just a few examples of potatos and their textures though there are a host of different species that fall into each category. Potatoes might be described as either waxy or starchy to help give a better understanding of how they will cook and what meals they work best with. Another category that the delicious potatoes fall into is flavor. The various descriptions of potato flavor types include the Rose Finn Apple Potato with an earthy flavor, the Japanese Sweet Potato gives off a sweet and nutty flavor, and the LaRette also a nutty flavor, the Red Gold boasts a combination of sweet and nutty flavors. And then there's the 'to be avoided' green potatos, which are said to be this color due to having been exposed to too much light, thus developing a toxin called solanine which puts off a bitter flavor. The unpleasant side effects don’t sound appealing as they include headache, nausea, upset stomach, cramping, and fever. That sounds like a potato I will likely pass on, though the others are surely ones I’ll add to the list of meal options.

Sources:

https://idahopotatomuseum.com/history/early-history/

https://www.thekitchn.com/potato-varieties-64061

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackfoot,_Idaho

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato

https://www.agmrc.org/commodities-products/vegetables/potatoes

https://www.vox.com/2015/11/25/9799556/potato-squash-consumption-usda

https://www.jessicagavin.com/types-of-potatoes/

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