Idaho’s Oktuberfest celebrates America’s favorite vegetable
Fort Worth, Texas October 4, 2019: My last column describes Oktoberfest that takes place in Germany every year and its history. Similarly, another yearly October festival has popped up on radar that takes place in Idaho.
Idaho?? Indeed, the Gem State has its own Autumn festival. However, it’s not lauded with beer.
Oktuberfest is sponsored by the Idaho Potato Commission. It’s a thirty-one-day celebration of Idaho, potatoes, and the harvest. According to the web page, one-third of all potatoes grown in the US, 13 billion pounds, are unearthed during this yearly event. That’s enough potatoes to fill a football field, end zone to end zone a mile high.
The Idaho Potato Commission (IPC), was established in 1937 to protect and promote the Grown in Idaho® seal that is a federally registered trademark. What makes potatoes grown in Idaho different from spuds from other states? The IPC says that the state’s growing conditions, which include rich volcanic soil, Idaho’s climate, and irrigation all contribute to the exceptional taste of potatoes grown there.
Here are a few fun facts about potatoes from the IPC:
• Weather dependent, planting takes place in April; approximately 70 to 90 acres of potatoes are planted per day–totaling about 310,000 acres.
• A national survey revealed that Idaho® potatoes are America’s favorite vegetable.
• 412 pounds of Idaho potatoes are sold every second.
• In 2018 the average person ate 114 pounds of potatoes.
13 billion pounds, are unearthed during this yearly event
Frank Muir, President & CEO of IPC says, “Potatoes are a multi-billion-dollar industry in Idaho. As the state’s largest agricultural crop, it generates more than 30,000 jobs. Even though the harvest is only six short weeks, the entire industry works year-round to make sure consumers have the freshest, highest quality potatoes possible.”
A big part of the IPC and Oktuberfest is to share the many, many ways to prepare potatoes. The Commission’s website has a plethora of them. Here are a few delicious recipes for your enjoyment.
Instant Pot Potato Leek Soup
Shared by Love Keil via IPC Recipes
• 4-5 slices of bacon, chopped
• 3 large leeks, chopped & washed
• 2 pounds Idaho® Potatoes, peeled, diced
• 5 cups chicken broth
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
• salt & pepper, to taste
• 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1. Set Instant Pot to sauté mode and add bacon. Cook bacon for 10 minutes, or until crispy. Remove bacon onto a plate lined with a paper towel.
2. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease and then add the leeks. Sauté for 5 minutes.
3. Stir in diced potato, chicken broth, thyme, salt, and pepper.
4. Put the cover on the Instant Pot and cook on Broth/Soup mode for 10 minutes. Quick-release the pressure.
5. Serve with crispy bacon and fresh parsley. Enjoy!
Idaho is also known as The Gem State
Simple Steamed Potatoes with Lemon, Dill and Butter
Shared by Sylvia Fountaine via IPC Recipes
• 1 – 1 1/2 pounds baby red Idaho® potatoes
• 2 tablespoons Litehouse™ freeze dried dill
• 2-3 tablespoons butter
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Lemon zest from one medium lemon
1. Cover the potatoes in salted water in a medium pot, bring to a simmer and cook until fork tender, about 20 minutes, more or less depending on size. Add the dill the last 5 minutes of cooking.
2. Drain the potatoes, using a fine mesh strainer and place them back into the pot, tapping the strainer to release the dill into the pot as well.
3. Turn heat to low, stir in the butter, coating the potatoes well.
4. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the zest of one lemon.
5. Serve warm.
Ms. Fountaine’s blog can be found here.
412 pounds of Idaho potatoes are sold every second
Easy, Cheesy Loaded Hash Browns
Shared by Cheryl Bennett via IPC
• 1 ½ – 2 lbs. Idaho® Norkotah or Russet Burbank Potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes)
• 1 medium onion, diced
• ½ cup red bell pepper, diced
• 5 strips bacon, cooked until crispy (recipe below)
• ½ cup shredded cheddar jack cheese
• 6 tablespoons butter
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt
• ½ teaspoon black pepper
• 2 tablespoons chives, chopped (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400° Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake bacon for 15-18 minutes, until crispy. Remove and set aside to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, cut into ½ inch pieces.
2. Fill a medium bowl with cold water. Peel potatoes and grate on a box grater, using the side with large holes. Immediately drop grated potatoes into the water. Drain into a fine mesh colander and rinse until water runs clear. (Two or three times)
3. Place drained potatoes into a clean kitchen towel and twist to wring out as much excess water as possible.
4. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to a cast iron skillet and sauté the onions and peppers over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
5. Add remaining butter to pan. Increase heat to medium high. When butter has melted, add potatoes to pan and let them cook, undisturbed, for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Using a heat proof spatula, break up the potatoes and flip over to brown evenly. Continue cooking for 10 minutes, breaking up potatoes and moving them around to cook thoroughly. Reduce heat to medium if potatoes get too brown.
7. Add peppers, onions, bacon, cheese and chives, if using. Once cheese has melted, remove from heat and serve.
Potatoes are considered America’s favorite vegetable
• Rinsing the potatoes to remove starch helps to keep the hash browns crispy and separated instead of gluey and stuck together.
• Wringing out the water will help them to brown and get that delicious crunchy exterior.
Ms. Bennett’s webpage can be found here.
Be sure to go to the IPC recipe webpage and browse over 1,500 ways to create tempting potato dishes. They cover a multitude of tastes, menus, and nutritional requirements. Enjoy and Happy Oktuberfest!
Read more of Claire’s work at Feed the Mind, Nourish the Soul in the Communities Digital News
Lead Photo: Courtesy of Idaho Potato Commission https://idahopotato.com/; Article Photos: Courtesy of IPO https://idahopotato.com/; Love Keil https://www.munchkintime.com/; Sylvia Fountaine https://www.feastingathome.com/; Cheryl Bennett https://www.pookspantry.com/