Potatoes are one of the most important crops to Idaho's economy. Every spring Idaho farmers plant over 320,000 acres of potatoes. Idaho farmers produce potatoes for several different markets ranging from seed to fresh to processing. About 60 percent of Idaho's potato crop is processed into french fries, tater tots and other fried products, or dehydrated into flakes and various other forms.
The crop is grown almost entirely in the southern portion of the state in the Snake River Plain. Idaho growers spend approximately $1,650 to produce one acre of potatoes. Statewide, the crop is valued at between $550 million and $700 million per year. Idaho produces about 30 percent of the russet type potatoes grown in the U.S. Potatoes are the leading crop commodity in Idaho.
Southern Idaho is an excellent region for potato production because of warm days and cool nights during the growing season. Rich volcanic soils, ample irrigation water, and progressive farmers using the latest available technology have kept Idaho's potato industry at the forefront.
Potatoes are one of the most important vegetables in the American diet. A typical American consumes nearly 140 pounds of potatoes each year in fresh or processed form Ð 50 pounds more than tomatoes, the nearest vegetable competitor. On an individual crop basis (excluding livestock) only wheat flour exceeds potatoes in importance in the American diet.
Idaho farmers begin planting potatoes in mid April. The crop is harvested in September and October. Farmers store the crop in large potato cellars that maintain over 95 percent humidity at around 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Consumers should note that storing potatoes in a cool, dark place will help maintain consistency and keep the tubers from turning green. Idaho is the only state that requires origin and variety labeling. It is also the only state governed by a federal marketing order to ensure quality and consistency. Always look for the "Grown in Idaho" seal.
In 2011 Idaho farmers planted 320,000 acres of potatoes. The average yield was 398 hundredweight per acre. The average price paid to growers was $7.70 per hundredweight and the total value of production was $978.4 million.
How to Bake An Idaho Potato
Aluminum foil is a useful kitchen product but it should never be used to bake a potato. Foil will not let steam escape and will therefore result in a steamed rather than baked potato. A baked Idaho potato should be dry and fluffy when it comes out of the oven. After piercing with a fork the spud should "bloom" when you open it. The trick to getting it right is as follows:
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees
- Pierce potatoes several times with a fork
- Rub down with olive or canola oil and salt (optional)
- Bake 45 minutes or until a fork penetrates easily
Potatoes can also be microwaved until partially cooked and finished in the oven to save time. Aluminum foil can be used to hold potatoes but should not be used during cooking.