Tuesday, May 08, 2012
Potatoes with a Northwest Flavor
I have to begin this post with a disclaimer: My husband, though he's lived here for several decades and now considers himself an Oregonian, descends from a long line of New England potato farmers, famous for growing varieties with names like Kennebec, Katahdin and Green Mountain. Growing up, the children of his small town in Maine were let out of school for a period in the fall to help with the potato harvest. He is quick to tell of the time that his right arm was pulled into the potato harvester when his sleeve caught in it, and of the child whose arm had to be amputated in the field in a similar incident.
Originally picked up by the Spaniards in South America, the potatoes came on ships sent to establish beachheads on the west coast of America. One fort was built on the northwestern tip of what is now Washington state, where the Pacific meets mouth of the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Apparently the settlement didn't work out for the Spanish, and they left after only one year.
The Ozette potato was cataloged and seed was grown outside the region, and in 2005 it was added to the Slow Food Ark of Taste. In 2006 a partnership called a Presidium was formed to promote the potato and encourage farmers and individuals to grow it. Recently the Herbfarm in Washington offered seed to Northwest gardeners, and my neighbor Susana, co-owner of Portland's Culinary Workshop, volunteered to grow them in in the workshop's large vegetable garden.
If you're interested in growing this native potato yourself, check out the links above for information on where to get your own seed. I'll keep you posted as Susana's grow!