One of the vegetables that has been a staple in our NYS Farmers boxes since the very beginning has been potatoes from Common Thread Farm in Madison, NY. Wendy and Asher of Common Thread Farm have been providing produce to Eden since we opened, and we have loved absolutely everything they have grown that has graced our front door. In fact, when speaking with another farmer here in Central New York, we agreed that their "seconds," or the produce they would discount for sale because of blemishes, are better that a lot of other farms' regular offerings.
This week we are going to take a deeper look at the potatoes that Wendy and Asher are providing us for our NYS Farmers boxes, and learn a little more about the variety of russet potato that will be included, the Blazer Russet.
First, a little history on potatoes in general. A lot of people associate potatoes with the State of Idaho, which makes sense in North America. Over 13 million pounds of potatoes were grown in the state of Idaho in 2019. Next to the State of Washington (10.3 million pounds of production in 2019) Idaho makes up a very large percentage of potato production in the United States. The third highest potato producing state in the US is Wisconsin (2,822,000 lbs in 2019).
Though many of us associate potatoes with Idaho, potatoes are actually native to South America, specifically Peru and northwestern Bolivia. The solernum tuberosum, the potato we know today, was first domesticated between 8,000 and 5,000 BC in the Andes mountains of Peru and Bolivia. In the 16th Century AD with the Spanish conquest of South America, the potato made its way to Europe, and is estimated to be a food staple that was responsible for around a quarter of the population growth in Europe between 1700 and 1900.
There are nearly 4,000 varieties of potatoes ranging in colors and textures. Each one has specific properties that make it unique. The potatoes we are including in our vegetable bag this week are a variety of russet potato named the Blazer.
In speaking with Asher of Common Thread Farm this morning I learned that the reason that they chose this variety of potato is that it was one of the few organic russet potatoes that they have had luck with on their farm.
Sourcing seed potatoes can be tricky, because diseased seed potatoes can spoil a whole crop. The Great Famine in Ireland from 1845 to 1852 is an example of how catastrophic a crop failure can be, and how devastating the effects of blight can be on potato crops. Because of this, seed potatoes are tested for disease before being planted. Organic seed potatoes in particular can be difficult to source. Asher and Wendy chose to source their organic seed potatoes from The Potato Lady in Guilford, Maine. Though Asher and Wendy grow many varieties of potatoes, Blazers are the only russet potato that they are currently growing on their farm.
Blazer Russets are known for their excellent culinary properties. They work well both as a fresh market potato, for use as mashed potatoes or potatoes au gratin, but also freeze well for uses such as making home made french fries! This is no accident. Blazer Russets are the culmination of 17 years of collaboration between breeders, The University of Idaho, Washington State University, and Oregon State University.
This week we will be focusing on recipes that you can make using Blazer Russets at home, including some secrets of how we make our mashed potatoes and potatoes au gratin at Eden.
For a deeper understanding of Blazer Russets, check out this research paper by J.C. Stark et. all on the USDA website.
Another article we found on the differences between types of potatoes can be found here at https://www.mashed.com/38279/difference-every-kind-potato/