In the United States, the name Idaho potato has become synonymous with high-quality russet potatoes. But the brown baking potatoes aren't the only potatoes grown in Idaho. The state harvests more than 25 other varieties, all of which can bear the stamp "Grown in Idaho." But thanks to a decades-long successful marketing campaign and the prolific output of Idaho's farmers, the Idaho potato and russet potato are one and the same for most Americans.
What Are Idaho Potatoes?
Idaho potatoes are, simply put, potatoes grown in the state of Idaho. The name is trademarked by the Idaho Potato Commission (as is "Grown in Idaho") and applied to the state's potatoes that are shipped all around the world. While the majority of Idaho's potato crop is russet, other varieties include red potatoes, fingerling, and Yukon Gold. The state harvests 13 billion pounds of potatoes annually, with a portion sold fresh and some sold for frozen food, French fries, and dehydration. Since 97% of Americans eat potatoes and the average citizen eats 111 pounds of potatoes a year, there's no lack of demand for Idaho potatoes.
Idaho Potatoes vs. Russet Potatoes
Because Idaho is known for its quality potatoes and the majority of the state's crop are russets, some Americans call all russet potatoes Idaho potatoes. The names, in fact, mean two different things, with Idaho referring to the harvest location and russet referring to the type of potato. Russet potatoes are a family of potatoes—russet simply refers to the color of the skin—and popular varieties include Burbank and Norkotah. Russets are often called baking potatoes since the brown-skinned, oblong-shaped potatoes are most often used for baked potatoes. They're also the most popular potato used for French fries and comprise 90% of Idaho's overall potato crop.
How to Cook With Idaho Potatoes
Potatoes can be served in a variety of ways but are always cooked. The peel on a russet potato is thin, brown, and edible. It can become crispy when fried or roasted but is sometimes removed for recipes like mashed potatoes. Russet varieties are especially good for baking whole and adding your choice of toppings. Scrub the outside of the potato well, dry, and prick a few times with a fork. The potato can be wrapped in aluminum foil or placed on a baking sheet and baked until tender. Alternatively, potatoes can be microwaved.
Russets are frequently cut into sticks and deep-fried to make French fries or spread out on a baking sheet to make oven fries. Peeled, chopped, and boiled, the popular vegetable makes excellent mashed potatoes.
What Do Idaho Potatoes Taste Like?
It's hard to describe a potato as tasting like anything other than a potato. And since the vast majority of Americans eat potatoes multiple times a week, you probably already know what a potato tastes like. The flavor of Idaho potatoes depends on the variety, with russets having a mild, pleasing potato flavor. The interior is fluffy when baked, and the exterior crisps in the oven or frier. While the skin is a different color and texture, it does not have much difference in flavor.
Idaho Potato Recipes
Idaho potatoes can be used in a wide range of recipes, from fries to hashbrowns to soup to roasted potatoes and even turkey hash. Russet potatoes are a versatile variety, but they are the potato when you want to make baked potatoes or twice baked potatoes.
Where to Buy Idaho Potatoes
Idaho potatoes can be found year-round at all major grocery stores. You're sure to find Idaho russet potatoes and, depending on availability, you may also find Idaho red, gold, or fingerling potatoes. When shopping for Idaho potatoes, look for the "Grown in Idaho" seal.
When choosing fresh russet potatoes, look for firm potatoes with no soft or black spots and no cuts. The skin should be taught, not wrinkly, with no eyes or sprouts. Depending on your location, russet potatoes can be grown almost year-round.
How to Store Idaho Potatoes
Keep potatoes in an open paper sack or basket, avoiding plastic. Store potatoes on their own, keeping them away from garlic and onion.
When stored in ideal conditions, mature potatoes (not new or fingerling) can last for months. The trick is achieving ideal conditions in your home. Potatoes like dark, dry places with a cool temperature of 45-55 degrees F. The fridge is too cold and moist, but many people's homes are too warm. If you have a dry cellar or basement that's naturally cool, store your potatoes there. If not, stick them in a dark corner at room temperature and use them within a week or two.
Nutrition and Benefits
Russet potatoes are low in fat and high in fiber, especially when the skin is left on. A baked potato provides more vitamin C and potassium than a banana, with 64% and 47% of the recommended daily value, respectively. They're also a good source of manganese and vitamin B6.