Friday, May 22, 2009

POTATOES AND THE WIND

People associate Russet Potatoes with Idaho like Wisconsin’s Cheese and Florida’s Oranges. Idaho covers a lot of area. If you could flatten out all the mountains it would be the size of Texas. Only a few parts of the state, however, are just right for growing those beautiful bakers that can be found in the poshest restaurants, and also make up most of those fries and chips you consume.

Potato photo from google images. Southeast Idaho is downwind of the Snake River plain. For eons the wind has gathered up fertile top soil and stacked it against the continental divide. The deposits of dirt are higher in altitude than the rivers. so the fields are usually watered by center pivot sprinkler systems.

These huge mechanical monsters are sometimes over a quarter of a mile long. They run on electricity and pull water out of deep wells. Entire fields are sprinkled in a way that assures consistent growth. Photo from Google Earth There are so many center pivots across the Southeast Idaho agricultural area that it looks like this from a satellite view.
The big white buildings that dot the countryside are potato cellars where the spuds are stored until they are marketed or cut up for seed for another year’s crop.

As I said, the soil has been drifting up against the Rocky Mountains forever. And the wind seems to blow relentlessly here every spring. California gets The Santa Ana, France has The Mistral, Italy has The Sirocco, and Canada gets The Chinook. We just get WIND. In the spring low pressure systems often form over Wyoming. The air is pulled eastward across the mountains. The effect is increased when the jet stream flows like a river over our state. Rude people say the reason the wind blows so hard in Idaho is because Wyoming sucks. And I guess technically that could be true. Here in potato country we try not to complain too much as we drop sour cream and chives onto those fluffy bakers.

8 comments:

Pam said...

"Sour cream and chives onto fluffy bakers". Oh my. I was trying so hard not to think of food. Interesting to see your part of the world. We had these big irrigation set-ups where I lived in a country citrus area of our state in South Australia, but citrus is now taking up too much water. Upstream from our state, I notice rice farming still goes on, taking up a lot of our water quota. Must go now and find something to eat!

ELIZABETH said...

I like posts like this. A chance to see and learn. *grin*

The Weaver of Grass said...

Now you have made my mouth water Leenie - so many of our potatoes here in UK have lost all flavour and are watery. Those potatoes sound wonderful - and as for the sour cream and chives - yum, yum!!

Jeannelle said...

Excellent post, Leenie! Interesting info and photos. I like that colorful satellite shot....how'd you get up there???

You could give the Idaho winds a fancy name....

I love your blog's new look! The photos really stand nice and sharp on the black background.

Woman in a Window said...

My mind is rattling to imagine just how many potatoes would fit into one of those low, long buildings. And I'm imagining the smell, too, deep and throaty.

Elizabeth said...

Fascinating.
Nothing I like better than a baked potato with lots of BUTTER
and coarse black pepper........
YUM

Brian Cooper said...

Great post, Leenie.
You have done an excellent job of explaining something that is very familiar to you, so that it makes sense to someone who hasn't experienced it.
A while ago, I was startled to discover that one of my co-workers had never seen a center pivot sprinkler, and it took me a while to explain it to him. I could have used what you wrote here and saved a lot of time.
You didn't mention the fact that the "#1 Idaho Potatoes" that the rest of the country sees in the grocery store are not as big or as good as the ones you get in Idaho.

jeanie said...

I loved the google earth shot - how amazing!!

Over here, you can buy potatoes - brushed or unwashed - that is the choice. Oh, loose or bagged.

None of that fancy, schmancy type of potato...