The Makah Ozette, a Potato with a Past. Gerry Warren Slow Food Seattle email@example.com
“The history and the distinctive flavor of this potato give it a significant market advantage over most fingerling potatoes offered in today’s marketplace.” Says Andrew Stout of Full Circle Farm a grower in Carnation WA. It is visually attractive with its pale yellow color, rugged knobby shapes and many deep brows. It has unique earthy, nutty flavors that pair very well with grilled and roasted meats.
In 2004 phylogenetic analysis conducted at Washington State University provided evidence that this potato had been brought directly to the west coast from South America perhaps via Mexico. Historical records show that in 1791 the Spaniards in an effort to expand their empire on the west coast had established a fort at Neah Bay in Northwest Washington. But because of severe winter weather in the harbor they abandoned the fort in 1792, leaving behind the remnants of their garden for the indigenous members of the Makah Nation to find. The Makah were in dire need of a sustainable carbohydrate source and eagerly adopted the potato and grew it in backyard gardens over some 200 years. Not until the late 1980’s did David Ronniger obtained seed from the Makah and include it in his seed offerings.
This potato lingered until 2005 when it was recognized by Slow Food to be a unique, historical and distinctive food that was not being fully appreciated and they began a campaign to bring this potato to the table. http://www.slowfoodusa.org/index.php/programs/presidia_product_detail/ozette_potato/ The objectives of this effort were to first establish the culinary worthiness of this potato and secondly to assure there would be a seed source sufficient to support a potential market once a demand was demonstrated.
This campaign, organized by Slow Food Seattle was a collaboration of; members of Makah Nation, Chuck Brown at the USDA Agricultural Research Station in Prosser WA., members of the Seattle Chef’s Collaborative, Andrew Stout of Full Circle Farm and Marlys Bedlington at Pure Potato, a seed grower in Lynden Washington.
In the spring of 2006 Slow Food Seattle bought 500 pounds of seed from Milk Ranch Specialty Potatoes and distributed them to regional farmers. The resulting crop was marketed to Seattle restaurants and sold in the many farmers markets in Seattle. The demand far out stripped the supply and has continued to do so over the last three years. This year a Seattle artisan bakery, Essential Baking Company, purchased over 20,000 pounds to use in their fall presentation of potato bread which they reported to be the most flavorful they had ever produced.
The challenge in meeting the growing demand has been the availability of seed. In anticipation of our success, Pure Potato in 2006 began with genetic material, the process of creating a substantial certified seed source and in this the third year, harvested some 50 tons of generation one seed. Forty percent of that seed has already been sold.
The Makah had named the potato “Ozette” after a village near the original fort and Slow Food has dubbed it the Makah Ozette in honor of their 200 years of stewardship. Seed is available from Pure Potato firstname.lastname@example.org and Potato Garden potatogarden.com