Friday, October 30, 2015

New York Potatoes Are A Must for Thanksgiving Dinner

An Adirondack blue potato
A can’t-do-without item on the Thanksgiving table is the potato.

No matter how you eat them — mashed, boiled, fried, scallopped or in a casserole — potatoes are a hearty starch filled with nutrients.

And yes, you can get potatoes grown in New York state.

There are 150 New York potato growers who grow and harvest 18,000 acres of the vegetable, mostly Upstate and on Long Island.

One is Jeff Hopkinson, who grows 70 acres of potatoes and seed potatoes in Williamstown, Oswego County. He finished harvesting his crop in early October and said the yield is good and the quality is “awesome.”

“We had a dry July and August, so I had to irrigate a lot,” he said. “But the size is good, the quality is fantastic, and there are no rotten ones. They are all nice.”

You can’t see much when you drive by a potato farm because all the growing takes place under the soil. Potatoes come in all sizes and different colors, such as red, white or blue. Some are better for varied types of cooking, whether it’s baking, boiling or frying.

And some potatoes aren’t eaten at all.

Hopkinson, a fourth-generation potato farmer, said he sells only about 20 percent of his 70 acres of potatoes for table stock. People come to the farm to buy them, and they are sold in some small stores. 

But the other potatoes are sold to potato farmers for seed stock, and Hopkinson said most of his go to Florida.

Many potato farmers in New York got involved in the seed business years ago, when it became another way to earn money. Hopkinson said that although the price of table potatoes can fluctuate wildly, seed prices are fairly stable.

Hopkinson is a certified seed provider — one of eight in New York state — meaning his farm undergoes about five inspections of his crop each year to ensure the potatoes used for seed are healthy and not spreading any diseases, such as the harmful potato leaf roll and potato mosaic viruses.

Certified seed is recognized in national and state legislation as meeting high standards for genetic purity and quality.

Hopkinson explained that seed potatoes don’t look any different from the vegetable that could grace a person’s plate. The difference is the inspections and care to be sure they are disease-free and that they always are kept in a cool, darkened storage area for sale later when they have begun to sprout eyes — those hard, beige tubes that grow out of the sides of potatoes. These eyes are the seeds and eventually grow into brand-new potatoes.

Here are the eight certified seed potato program participants in New York state:

** Ayers & Gillette, Pike, Wyoming County, 585-493-2394,
** Kurt Brehm, Wayland, Steuben County, 585- 315-8746
** Childstock Farms, Inc., Malone, Franklin County, 518-483-1239,
** Hopkinson Farms, Williamstown, Oswego County, 315-964-2221
** Andrew Pryputniewicz, Waterville, Oneida County, 315-841-8426,
** Bruce H. Pryputniewicz, Sauquoit, Oneida County, 315-839-5301,
** Tucker Farms, Inc., Gabriels, Franklin County, 518-637-1230, , ,
** Cornell Uihlein Potato Farm, Lake Placid, Essex County, 518-523-3258, ,,

Potato Facts
** New York ranks 14th in the country in potato production. Idaho is first and Washington second.
** Potatoes are filled with fiber, Vitamin C and potassium, and they have no fat or cholesterol and only 100 calories per serving. The vegetable is 90 percent water.
** New York potato producers grow the vegetable for Cape Cod, Wise, Utz, Herr’s, Terrell’s and other regional potato chip companies.
** It is said that the potato chip was born in New York. In 1853, railroad magnate Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt complained that his potatoes were cut too thick and sent them back to the kitchen at a fashionable resort in Saratoga Springs. 

To spite him, chef George Crum sliced some potatoes paper-thin, fried them in hot oil, salted and served them. Vanderbilt loved his “Saratoga Crunch Chips,” and potato chips have been popular ever since.
Source: Empire State Potato Growers

For more great stories like this one, subscribe to the monthly Empire Farm & Dairy magazine by writing to the Watertown Daily Times, 260 Washington St., Watertown, NY   13601

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