It happened again today. Ruth was telling someone about our recent trip, and the 1st attraction she mentioned was The Idaho Potato Museum. She loved it! Every time she mentions it, however, everybody laughs. For about the 1st five minutes I was in the place, I was laughing too. But the folks who run it take their subject very seriously, so after a while I became serious too. I can’t believe how much there is to learn about potatoes! I began to laugh again when I saw what has to be the world’s largest collection of potato mashers.
Potatoes won’t grow well everywhere. Ideal conditions include warm days and cool nights, volcanic soil, a bit of altitude, and lots of fresh water. Blackfoot, county seat of Bingham and its largest city, possesses these conditions. That’s why Bingham County produces more than one-third of the United States’ potatoes and considers itself the Potato Capitol of the World. It’s also why this extensive museum is in an old Oregon Short Line Railroad Depot here. Potatoes became a huge crop in the 1880s when this line was completed and created a national market for local spuds.
We love to eat potatoes. The average American consumes 52.3 pounds of them each year. Most are in the form of French fries, and I asked the ladies in the potato restaurant what potato product sells best, and they said practically in unison, “Fresh cut fries!” I did this after I had respectfully looked at a Pugh Potato Digger, a restored 1948 Farmall cub tractor, and a potato sack sewing machine.
Russets account for 94% of the potatoes grown around Blackfoot, and 9% of the crop ends up as certified seed for next year’s planting. Because potatoes contain potassium, fiber, and vitamins A, C, and D, they are the perfect food. The human body can survive on a diet of nothing but potatoes. Each one has less than 200 calories if eaten baked and without additions, like bacon bits. They also keep well if stored in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated place.
I could go on because I now have lots of info about harvesting potatoes, the irrigation canals that ensure a great potato yield, how many potatoes McDonald’s turn into fries each year, etc., but you can visit the Idaho Potato Museum yourself and comprehensively learn about one of your favorite foods. I’ll just end with one last fact. The potato was the first vegetable grown in space when seeds were germinated on the Columbia space shuttle. OK. You can laugh now.
ps. That is indeed Marilyn Monroe pushing spuds in the ad above.