Talk Dirt To Me

Gardening in Alaska presents big challenges, whether it's the extra effort in finding plants tough enough to survive our Zone 2-4 climate, communicating with like-minded Alaska gardeners, or keeping up with the latest trends, issues and solutions. We'll try to help with that. We'll also tour gardens from Homer to Anchorage to Wasilla to Willow whenever we get the chance, and post the best garden photos around. Presenting a forum about cold-weather gardening and for cold-weather gardeners is what we are all about. We hope you'll join us on the Talk Dirt garden blog.

Photographer and gardener Fran Durner (fdurner@adn.com) writes the blog.

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Yellow-fleshed potatoes and more

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Yukon Gold potatoes. Fran Durner/ADNYukon Gold potatoes. Fran Durner/ADNThere is a growing market for yellow-fleshed potatoes other than a popular variety called German Butterball. (Have to admit, I’ve never heard of that one.) Yukon Gold is one of the most familiar of the yellow-fleshed varieties grown in Alaska that’s also finding a niche Outside.

Alaska agricultural agencies are working with a potato breeder, Chuck Brown, a research geneticist with the USDA in Prosser, Wash., to find uniquely colored potatoes for specialty markets, such as high-end restaurants and farmer’s markets.

You’ve probably seen some of these tubers already, such as the purple- and blue-fleshed ones, at the markets in the summer, and there is growing interest in developing more interesting-looking, delicious-tasting spuds. There is hope to produce these potatoes commercially in Alaska.

Have to wonder how they choose these names. Fran Durner/ADNHave to wonder how they choose these names. Fran Durner/ADNSo trials of some of these novelty potatoes are being performed at the University of Alaska Experimental Farm in the Valley. They evaluate about 3,000 accessions (a technical name for a variety that hasn’t been named yet) of potatoes a year. That’s 3,000 different potatoes! Several of these have been on display at the Potato Growers Conference today.

The Party Potato! Fran Durner/ADNThe Party Potato! Fran Durner/ADNWe’ve been lucky to have tasted some of them today as well. Chef and horticulturalist Sally Koppenberg of The Red Beet Cafe in Palmer receives some of these experimental potatoes to test in the kitchen. C.B. 29-6, dubbed “The Party Potato” at a previous occasion, for its creamy yellow and raspberry red-swirled flesh, is one of her favorites. The only one she said she doesn’t like is the humble russet, a potato most of us grew up with.

Must admit I’m hoping more of these potatoes will be available at the markets next summer.

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