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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ozettes! (and Other Potatoes)

This has been a good garden year here so far, and mid-July brought with it a good harvest of potatoes. But I have a garden blog somewhere else, and it's the food that interests me here. Especially since this year was my first attempt at growing the Ozette potato.

Ozettes are what people call a 'fingerling' potato, mostly smaller than what you see here. This one has side sprouts, and looks as much like a Jerusalem artichoke as a potato. But that's the beauty of potatoes--a beauty hid from me for decades, growing up on nothing but Idaho Russets--that they come in so many shapes, sizes, and colors.

This variety gets's it's name from a place called Ozette, which also happens to be an archaeological site of huge significance. It's a site because Makah people lived there, and they've been growing these potatoes for centuries. Unfortunately, I don't have their origin story, but it's likely that Makah territory was one of the early landing points for the great Peruvian Potato Migration that spread tubers across the globe once Spanish ships started plying Pacific waters. But if the potato has not been here as long as the tribe, since time immemorial, it's been adopted by them for long enough to be a part of the culture now.

So yeah, it's a good variety for an archaeologist to grow, and it did well down here in the South Puget soils. And now that I have about 4 gallons of them, I'll get to try them in all sorts of ways. Ozettes, coated in olive oil and sprinkled with salt, roasted just short of crisp, chewy with a tough caramelized outer layer and a rich interior, mmmm. Simple can be best.

There's gold in them there hills.

The other varieties I grew this year were less interesting. Yukon Golds (above) were one of the first "other" potatoes available in regular American grocery stores of the late 20th Century, but to be honest the only reason I grew them was because I had some extra space and tubers that were sprouting. They're doing well, it seems like, but I haven't harvested them yet. When the time comes, they'll be the workhorse potato, boiled, mashed, roasted, whatever. Hopefully, they'll taste a little better for having been homegrown, but they're not exciting.

A basket of mascots.
The other kind of potato this year also came about as the result of profligate potato purchasing and the oversupply of aging tubers that follows for unambitious cooks like myself. This time, it was the only non-russet potato that I can remember way back into childhood: the Redskin. Yes, football fans, this is the way to use this word without being a racist asshole. I know, you don't want to walk away from your proud tradition (which has lasted, oh, not even 1/100th of the time Native people had their own traditions along the Potomac), and sports fans are not to be bullied by political correctness, but its mean and racist to keep calling your team that.

But yeah, redskin potatoes are fine. I'm looking forward to eating them. At least a few will go into sour cream and tarragon style potato salad. Tastes like summer.

And finally this year, there was a stealth russet, flourishing despite me. Potatoes actually came up unbidden last year from a previous renter's garden, but even though I hilled them up, they didn't produce. This year when it happened again, I ripped the shoots and thought no more. I did notice a survivor lurking among the raspberries, but didn't bother pulling it. Of course, I didn't bother helping it any, either, no weeding or hilling.

Then last week, because I wanted to clear some space for fall spinach, I did pull it out, and found about 7 pounds of potatoes hiding under the now luxuriant vine. I might not choose russets intentionally, but when a few meals worth drops in my lap, I'm grateful.

Now, all these potatoes (about 6 gallons and I have no idea how many pounds) are sitting in my archaeology screens in the garage, curing a bit before I stash them in the darkest coolest spot this hacienda has.

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