Potatoes

Potatoes

Solanum tuberosum

Oregon has one of the highest yields per acre of potatoes in the world at 53,000 pounds of potatoes per acre! 75% of Oregon potatoes are processed into food products such as frozen French fries for fast food restaurants, hash browns, chips, dehydrated flakes, and soups. Up to 15% of these products go to foreign markets such as Japan, Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines, Mexico, and South America.

Potatoes have been an important crop in Oregon since it became a state. During the gold rush in Northern California, surplus potatoes from Oregon were packed by mule train, and later by wagon train to the miners. In 1849, four bushels of Oregon potatoes were selling for $500 in San Francisco. Oregon farmers thus dug potatoes and struck gold.

History

The first recorded planting of potatoes in the Oregon Country was made by the crew of the ship Ruby under Captain Bishop, on an island in the Columbia River, near Cape Disappointment in 1795. At Fort Astoria twelve shriveled potatoes, all that remained of a supply brought from New York by the Astor ship Tonqui were planted in May 1811; those potatoes produced 190 potatoes the first season and that allowed for a few plants to be sent to inland traders. In 1812, sixty hills planted at the fort produced five bushels; in 1813 two bushels planted produced fifty bushels. By 1825 potatoes were being harvested from Fort Vancouver garden of Dr. John McLoughlin, who specifically ordered them to keep his soldiers from developing scurvy. According to the earliest records, the fort garden produced 900 bushels of potatoes, and in 1832 more than 15,000 bushels of potatoes were gathered. Much of McLoughlin’s seed potatoes went to start Oregon pioneer gardens.

From the time farming first began at Fort Astoria until enough wheat was raised to support the inhabitants, potatoes were the main substitute for bread. With the pioneer settlement, potatoes became a generally increased crop and a staple of diet.

Varieties

There are many different kinds of potatoes.  They can be large or small, and red, brown, or white.

Potatoes are diverse in appearance, maturity, and use, and are an excellent source of nutrition. In fact, potatoes have fewer calories and contain more nutrients than rice, pasta, or bread. Potatoes can be boiled, baked, and fried. Red and white-skinned varieties are often preferred for boiling because they have a waxy texture and hold their shape when cooked. This texture is due to low starch content, often called low specific gravity. In contrast, russet-skinned varieties may have high specific gravity, giving them a more granular or mealy texture, suitable for baking or frying.

Red varieties offer the consumer an aesthetically pleasing color contrast to meat and other vegetables, a multi-purpose use, a somewhat sweet flavor, (particularly after storage), and a unique texture.

White-skinned varieties are also multi-purpose. Those with low specific gravity and an ability to accumulate less sugar can be processed into potato chips.

Russet varieties are characterized by their often heavy, dark brown, netted skin. Most are oblong to long and are the epitome of the perfect baking potato. Several russet clones are excellent for processing into French fries, mashing, or salads.

Russet potatoes

White potatoes

Red potatoes

How They Grow

Potatoes grow on plants.  Most plants grown from a seed, but potato plants grow from another potato.  In spring, farmers plant rows and rows of potatoes. On every potato there are little marks called eyes. When the potato is planted, shoots grow from the eyes.

After a few weeks, one of the shoots grows toward the light and bursts through the soil. The fields are soon full of low, bushy potato plants.Under ground, the plant is growing roots and stems.  Tiny roots called tubers grow on the stems. The tubers grow into the potatoes that we know and eat!


Selecting and Buying Potato Seeds

The use of healthy seed is essential for good yields and quality. Certified seed is inspected by professionals and considered to meet certain strict standards. For example, certification almost invariably prohibits the known presence of bacterial ring rot, root knot nematodes and certain other diseases which can lead to devastating crop losses. Strictly enforced tolerances have been established for other lesser pests and diseases.

Seed Certification

Certification is not a guarantee of quality. Certification reports typically emphasize what is seen during visual field inspections. Diseases present at low levels during inspection may go unobserved, increase dramatically before harvest, and lead to seed tuber infection levels far beyond tolerances. To guard against this problem, most states require some type of winter grow out test in which a small sample of each seed lot is planted and grown out for further visual inspection.

Factors other than field diseases can also affect the performance of seed. Seed handling during harvest, storage, and shipping may have more influence on crop performance than disease readings reported by certification inspectors. Seed should be carefully examined for excessive mechanical injury, decay, sprouting and shriveling before accepting delivery.

Seed which has been stored too warm or produced under adverse field conditions may look sound and vigorous but be physiologically old. Old seed typically emerges, forms tubers and matures early, produces many stems and tubers, and may have lower yields than young seed, especially in long season locations. Physiological age of seed can be partially compensated for by changes in cultural management. On the other hand, physiological age of seed can be tailored to local needs. For example, old seed may be highly desirable in short season or seed production situations where early maturity or small tuber size are preferred.

A close, long-term working relationship with a few dependable seed growers is probably the best overall guarantee of consistently good seed quality year after year. By comparison, dealing with new suppliers can be dangerous. Most seed grower take care of their regular customers first and save whatever is left for new and/or late contacts. When dealing with new seed suppliers, on-farm visits during both the growing season and shortly before shipping are highly desirable. Also, a conscientious effort to obtain certification records and learn something about the grower’s reputation is highly advisable.

Time invested in finding and purchasing good seed is obviously time well spent whether dealing with familiar or new trading partners. Seed prices may range from $8 – $20 per hundredweight and growers may plant up to a ton per acre.

Disease and Rouging

Rouging is an essential practice in the production of healthy seed potatoes. It is the process of identifying and disposing of abnormal plants, including tubers and seed pieces. The affected plants may be diseased, another variety, or simply different. Most diseases of potatoes are sap- or insect-transmitted. For this reason, rouging is no substitute for the use of good early-generation seed, careful sanitation during cutting and planting, and effective insect control.

Storage

Keep potatoes where it’s cool, dark and well-ventilated. The ideal temperature is 45 to 50 degrees. Temperatures over 50 degrees will cause sprouting and fast decay. Storage under 40 degrees will cause starches to convert to sugar, resulting in a “sweet” taste and the potatoes turning dark when fried. Too much light will turn potatoes green and make them taste bitter.

Potatoes stored after harvest

Producing Regions

In 2013, potatoes ranked 7th in the Oregon Commodities list with a total sales value of approximately $143 million. Potatoes are produced throughout the state. The top three producing counties are Umatilla with 13,000 acres harvested, Morrow followed closely behind, harvesting 12,500 acres, and Baker harvested 3,800 acres. The four major producing areas are the Klamath Basin, Central Oregon, Northeastern Oregon, and Eastern Oregon.

Klamath BasinThe Klamath Basin is one of several excellent high elevation, short season, isolated seed production areas. The Klamath area leads the state in total seed production. Seed is grown in several isolated valleys at an average elevation of 4,100 feet primarily in three areas: Lower Klamath Lake, Upper Klamath Lake, and Dairy-Bonanza. Klamath County has produced a large volume of seed for over 60 years. Nearly all major western varieties are grown, but Russet Burbank and Russet Norkotah dominate production. Jackson County is included in this production area.

Central OregonProduction is centered primarily in Crook, Deschutes, and Jefferson counties with some seed in Lake County. Elevation averages 3,000 feet. Fields are located near Culver, Sisters, Redmond and Powell Butte. The area has a seed potato tradition dating back nearly 70 years. Local growers are well acquainted with the importance of high quality seed. The principal varieties are Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet, and Russet Norkotah.

Northeastern OregonSeed growers are located in Baker, Union, and Wallowa counties. Elevation ranges from 2,000 to 4,300 feet. Nearly all of the seed is grown at the higher elevation. Wallowa County growers have established a seed control area which prohibits production of any potatoes without an inspection for diseases. Wallowa County has produced seed for 27 years. Russet Burbank is the principal variety.

Eastern OregonSome seed is produced in northwest Malheur, Grant, and Harney counties, well isolated from major commercial production areas. These areas average 4,000 feet and are relatively new to seed potatoes.

Nutrition

Potatoes are a vegetable. They contain vitamins, fiber, and starch that give us energy. Potatoes are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. One medium sized potato has fewer calories than a grapefruit, more potassium than a banana, and more usable iron than any other vegetable. Potatoes are also high in fiber, and loaded with complex carbohydrates. And best of all, potatoes are fat-free.

Nutrition Facts

Amount per Serving

Calories 110 Calories from fat 0
% Daily Value
Total Fat 0 g 0%
Saturated Fat 0 g 0%
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 0 mg 0%
Potassium 620 mg 18%
Total Carbohydrate 26 g 9%
Dietary Fiber 2 g 8%
Sugars 1 g
Protein 3 g

 

Vitamin A 0% Vitamin C 45%
Calcium 2% Iron 6%
Thiamin 8% Riboflavin 2%
Niacin 8% Vitamin B6 10%
Folate 6% Phosphorous 6%
Zinc 2% Magnesium 6%

Fast Facts

  • Potato chips were invented by mistake. The year was 1853, and Railroad Magnate Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt was dining at a fashionable resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. He sent his fried potatoes back to the kitchen complaining they were too thick. To spite his haughty guest, Chef George Crum sliced some potatoes paper thin, fried them in hot oil, and salted them. To everyone’s surprise, Vanderbilt loved his “Saratoga Crunch Chips”, and potato chips have been popular ever since.
  • The average American eats 134 pounds of potatoes a year, or over 365 potatoes per person per year – that’s an average of more than one potato a day.
  • The potato is the second most consumed food in the United States – trailing only after milk products.


Recipe

Red Potato Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. plain low fat yogurt
  • 1/3 c. reduced-calorie mayonnaise
  • 2 tbs. Cider Vinegar
  • 2 tbs. fresh dill or 1 tsp. Dried dill
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1-1/2 lb. Oregon Red Potatoes, scrubbed, cut in 1-inch chunks, boiled, drained and cooled
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and cut in thin rounds (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 c. each celery, radishes, and red onion, thinly sliced

In a large serving bowl, mix yogurt, mayonnaise, vinegar, dill, salt and pepper until blended. Add remaining ingredients; toss gently to mix and coat. Serve at room temperature or chill. Makes 6 one-cup servings.


Vocabulary

Eyes: where shoots come out of potatoes to grow potato plants
Fiber: benefits the digestive system and helps to increase the feeling of fullness between meals. A diet rich in fiber is helpful in relieving constipation and helps to prevent breast and colon cancer, diabetes and obesity
High specific gravity: potatoes with high starch content
Hundredweight: 100 pounds
Iron: a mineral that is essential for an energetic body, a sharp mind and a strong immune system. Iron helps blood and muscles supply oxygen to the body. A diet rich in iron can prevent anemia which can cause ulcers and stomach or colon cancer
Low specific gravity: potatoes with low starch content
Physiologically old: happens when seeds  are stored too warm; they emerge, tuberize and mature early
Potassium: a mineral that is in every cell in the body. Potassium has been shown to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. A deficiency in the mineral can make a person feel weak or fatigued
Rouging: the process of identifying and disposing of abnormal plants, including tubers and seed pieces
Tubers: the part of the potato plant that people eat