Attending the Idaho Potato Harvest to Learn About a Simple, Fascinating, Delicious Food

Gnocchi.jpgIt was the Idaho Potato Commission’s 2012 harvest tour – eleven food bloggers, including me, were shipped off to Idaho to get the scoop on spuds for our readers. Think potatoes are a simple veggie?  It took close to four days to deep-dive into the topic enough to really, truly grasp “why” Idaho, “why” fresh OR “why” processed, “why” dehydrated, “why, why, why.”  You get the recipe for fresh Gnocchi at the bottom.

This adventure was a FAM TRIP,a “familiarization” tour courtesy of the Idaho Potato Commission. I mention this up front because if you visit blogs, you may read how some bloggers take such trips like this, yet often don’t EXPLAIN how it works (as in, “how the heck did this person get such a cool trip??”).

Potato field papparazzi

HOW… a company (in this case, Idaho potato farmers, processors and distributors) picks up the tab to bring us to their ‘hood for an educational visit. WHY… we are reporters for our readers. We experience production, distribution, products and the people involved. We form our own opinions, take our own photos and write posts that shed light on what we think will be of value to our readers.

And, frankly, for us bloggers, it is a damn lot of fun. Those of us who take the responsibility seriously return home with a LONG list of insightful blog posts. We whittle down our thoughts and notes, pour through our photos to carefully distill the process and create good reads as well as useful education for you.  Heck, you may think it’s just POTATOES.  Well, to our hosts, that isn’t the whole truth. Here, it’s IDAHO potatoes, in a variety of forms.  The education on-site included:

  • Planting
  • Growing
  • Harvesting
  • Transporting
  • Storing
  • Processing
  • Packing
  • Shipping
  • Technology
  • People
  • The Idaho Lifestyle
  • Recipes

brands we visited, with captions

In this post, the brand side of the story:  Famous Idaho Potatoes – this is an umbrella organization funded by potato growers and related businesses to teach consumers and restaurants the unique differences between spuds grown in Idaho (their brand) and anywhere else.  And yes, they really are different.

IMG_5392Green Giant – a company called Potandon grows and packs special varieties of fresh potatoes under this brand AND the Klondike name.  Klondike refers to the type of spud (like Klondike Rose used in the gnocchi recipe below); Green Giant is the brand. When you are at the store, you will find loose potatoes in bins, and also packaged potatoes like these.

Idahoan – you will recognize this brand at the store as the shelf-stable boxes and packages of “dehy” products. OK, I will say it… Instant Potatoes. DON’T stick up your nose, I will tell you ALL ABOUT these in an upcoming post.

Why I think this matters: We Americans consume twice as many pounds of potatoes in processed form (90 lbs. per person) than fresh (49 lbs.) each year. We may THINK we understand what “processed” means. But the only thing “processed” isn’t is a whole, raw spud. A processed potato may be sliced by machine. Or diced and shipped to a restaurant chain.  Frozen, or canned, or… yes, DEHY.  Potato “flakes.”  Instant spuds.  (Wait for my post on that.)

We met the people who make this all happen. Farmers. Whole farming families. Tractor drivers. Sorters. Truckers. Production line workers. Shippers. Salespeople. Marketers. More.

We saw first-hand what goes into growing and harvesting FAB fresh potatoes in the arid, high desert Idaho soil — the best for growing Burbank Russets, Red, Rose, Golddust, Fingerlings, Yukon Golds and more.

First lesson: what you need to know about different varieties is simple… recipes call for types due to their texture, shape, size, flavor, and/or color.  Experimenting is easy. Start here by making a platterful of awesome, yet simple fresh gnocchi:

Homemade Gnocchi – recipe courtesy of Klondike® Rose Potatoes

  • 2 cups Klondike Rose potatoes
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 large egg
  • Pinch of salt and white pepper
  1. Boil potatoes whole until tender, drain and set aside. While potatoes are still warm, put flour into a large bowl. Create a well in the middle of the flour.
  2. Crack an egg into the well in the flour.
  3. Using a potato ricer, rice the potatoes onto the flour and egg.
  4. Mix together with salt and pepper until well blended.  Using your hands here is perfectly fine.
  5. Spread flour onto your workstation and knead dough until it is smooth.
  6. Once dough is smooth, quarter into four equal pieces.
  7. Roll one piece into a long, even rope. Cut small, even pieces from the dough.
  8. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  9. Put pieces into boiling water. Dough will rise to the top when done cooking.
  10. Take out of boiling water and toss with marinara sauce or pesto, and garnish with parsley and Parmesan cheese.
  11. Makes around 4 cups of gnocchi.
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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marla October 15, 2012 at 2:46 pm

FUN to relive all these GREAT potato memories Patti!

2 Liz @ The Lemon Bowl October 8, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Great post and very informative – thank you sharing a behind the scenes view!

3 averagebetty October 7, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Seeing the equipment for farming, the machinery for processing and the hydraulics for packing was mind blowing. The volume of potatoes and the number of busy workers employed that supply America with its favorite vegetable… completely mind expanding and heart warming. Great post, Patti! — Sara

4 Kim - Liv Life October 4, 2012 at 1:02 pm

What an awesome experience!! I’ve done a few local trips like this and I’ve SO enjoyed getting sort of a back scoop on what you thought you already knew about. I will be eager to read about the rest of your trip, but for a start you have completely whetted my appetite!

5 Stephanie, The Recipe Renovator October 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Thanks for sharing your insights and enthusiasm Patti. I hope to be invited in a future year… love me some potatoes!

6 JulieD October 3, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Very awesome post, Patti!! I’m so happy we finally got to meet in person. This event was truly amazing and glad I got to share it with you!

7 Worth The Whisk October 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Thanks Meagan, your presence on the potato tour MADE our experience even greater. See you again soon, I hope.

8 Meagan @ Scarletta Bakes October 1, 2012 at 11:03 am

Fantastic post, Patty! And I love, love, LOVE your photo captions! Put a bunch of potatoes in front of us and we food bloggers act like a gaggle of paparazzi!!!

9 Aly ~ Cooking In Stilettos October 1, 2012 at 8:39 am

Wow – definitely sounds like there was a lot to learn on this trip 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing!

10 Patsy September 30, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Great post! Thanks, for sharing what the trip was about and I’m looking forward to your other posts!

11 sippitysup September 30, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Don is right. It was the volume that blew my mind. That’s a whole lot good eatin”! GREG

12 Don Odiorne September 29, 2012 at 7:09 pm

So glad we had the opportunity to share some of the passion of potato people with a group of bloggers that were very open to learning new things, and curious about the steps of the harvest which is in full swing right now. Personally I love seeing eyes get bigger when someone first sees the volume of potatoes that it takes to feed families and provide product to restaurants across America.

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