Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom Logo

Potatoes

solanum tuberosum

Potato
Baking Potato side view

Importance to Oregon

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 began digging for 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.

Potato Varieities

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 Potatoes

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 Potatoes

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 Potatoes

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.

Life Cycle

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!

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.

Harvesting

Potatoes are harvested in many different ways depending on the size of the operation. Some potatoes are harvested by hand and other operations use heavy equipment and tractors to harvest the potato fields.

A haulm topper is the first piece of machinery used in harvesting potatoes. This piece of machinery cuts the stems (haulms) off of potatoes. A few days later, a potato harvester goes through the fields and scoops up the potatoes and soil. The potatoes pass over a web where the soil falls through and the potatoes stay on the conveyor belt. The potatoes travel up the conveyor belt and then are put into wooden boxes or the back of a potato hauler truck.

Check out this video that shows you how potatoes are harvested!

 

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.

Bacterial Ring Rot

Bacterial Ring Rot causes wilting stems and leaves, dying leaves and a creamy yellow and brown ring on the inside of the potato. This bacteria grows in wet and warm soils and it stays in the debris of the plants during the winter months.

Powdery Scab

Powdery scab is a fungus that causes white to brown abnormal growths to develop of the roots. The fungus creates shallow markings on the potatoes that fill with brown spores. Symptoms of this fungus do not show above ground which means it can only be detected once the potatoes are harvested.

Colorado Potato Beetle

Potato beetles feed on the foliage and cause damage to the leaves to the point where the plants become bare. The larvae are bright red in color and the adults are yellow and black striped beetles. The adult beetles appear in the sprint time and the females lay up to two dozen eggs at a time. She can lay 500 or more eggs in a month time.

Uses

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.

Livestock Feed

Potato haulms can be used as a feed additive to livestock feed.

Fun Facts

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The potato is the second most consumed food in the United States – trailing only after milk products.
  4. One medium sized potato has fewer calories than a grapefruit, more potassium than a banana, and more usable iron than any other vegetable.

Vocabulary Terms

Where shoots come out of potatoes to grow potato plants

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

Potatoes with high starch content

100 pounds

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

Potatoes with low starch content

Happens when seeds  are stored too warm; they emerge, tuberize and mature early

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

The process of identifying and disposing of abnormal plants, including tubers and seed pieces

The part of the potato plant that people eat

AITC Resources

Tomatoes, Potatoes, Corn and Beans
Tomatoes, Potatoes, Corn and Beans

Spuds, Taters, and the French Fry Kids
Spuds, Taters and the French Fry Kids

Propagation and Regeneration: Basil
Propagation & Regeneration in Plants