How Do You Like to Eat Your Potatoes?
It's not everyday that you get to join 19 other influencers in a wide open field in Eastern Washington to learn about how potatoes get from farm to table, but a few weeks ago I got an invite by the Washington State Potato Commission to do just this very thing and I am so glad I made the drive from Seattle to Quincy, Washington to see what this was all about.
My family eats potatoes all the time.
We probably eat them mostly as French fries or as vegetarian poutine now on Seattle Kraken hockey nights. We make hash browns with our eggs at breakfast or we put fingerling and red potatoes in curries and soups when the weather gets chilly. In a few weeks we'll definitely have them roasted and mashed when our family gathers for Thanksgiving. And in the winter a baked russet potato buffet is one of our favorite hearty meals at our cabin with family and friends after a busy day of skiing and playing outdoors all day. We also have a few bakeries in Seattle where we love to buy potato bread too.
I didn't realize how much I take potatoes for granted, or how many potatoes are grown here in our state. We literally grow tons of them. Washington Potato Farms are 99% family owned and grow 30 billion servings of potatoes every year. That is 23% of all the potatoes grown in the United States of America. And these potatoes not only get eaten here, they also might get eaten on plates all over the world.
As someone who lives in the city, I most often see potatoes in the grocery stores or at Pike Place Market or in the freezer section or on plates in restaurants. We don't see vast potato fields or big fields of anything so it's hard to imagine the farmer who grew them from seed; the farmer who had to plan for the possibility of an early frost in the winter and also the extreme heat of the summer too. I never really thought about how potatoes have to be harvested and brought from fields to shelves or stored for long periods of time. And I didn't know that, because most of Washington State Potato Farms are family owned, by buying and eating local potatoes we are also supporting our neighbors and friends and ultimately each other too. The opportunity to see all these things happen in real life and learn these stories was an absolute dream come true.
I am really glad I learned so much about potatoes but also about how much potatoes mean to our community.
If there is one thing we need to take away from how we've had to live in the past year or two, we know we all need to take care of each other a lot better and be innovative in how we care for the world as well. It's pretty amazing that Washington Potato farmers have figured out how to grow potatoes most efficiently, growing 44% more per acre than the United States average on 170,000 of the most acres with an average yield of 60,000 pounds per acre. Not only does this mean we grow a lot of potatoes here in Washington, this also translates to 36,000 jobs across the state and 7.4 billion dollars to the state economy too.
And potatoes are so delicious!
They are also full of nutrients. I did not know that a medium potato has the same amount of Vitamin C as a medium tangerine. Or that a potato even has more potassium in it than a banana! And because you can eat the whole potato including the skin, it doesn't have a lot of waste. It's a pretty eco-conscious vegetable. Aren't we all trying to be a little more cognizant of the environment these days as well?
I had such a great time catching up with other Washington State influencers that I've known for a long time and also meeting new friends and growers and people who know a lot about potatoes. After seeing the potatoes being dug up and transported to giant storage sheds where it felt like we walked past miles of potatoes piled stories high, we ate french fries outside where the sun was shining brightly and leaves were gently falling from the surrounding trees. They tasted like the best fries I've ever had. Like anything we get to know better, food also tastes better when we know the stories behind it and now potatoes will be forever more dear in my heart.