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Fall 2003

The benefits of mustard

Remember your first encounter with classic Chinese mustard? Your seared sinuses? Your cheeks washed with involuntary tears?

What you tasted was the indelicate reaction of the mustard plant’s chemical compounds, probably enhanced by the wetness of your mouth.

That same volatile reaction is being applied by Columbia Basin farmers to control pests and weeds, improve the productivity of their soils, reduce the use of chemicals, and improve air quality for downwind communities.

Mustard is becoming the crop of choice as a green manure grown in the rotations of many potato producers. Research is showing that in addition to improving the physical and chemical characteristics of … » More …

Winter 2006

What color is your potato?

Remember when picking a potato was easy? You had your choice: bake or boil?

Today there are dozens of decisions. Waxy? dry? fingerling? yellow? red? blue? banana?

That world of choice started the early 1980s, when the Yukon Gold emerged from a breeding program in Canada. The yellow potato’s creamy texture and buttery taste made it an instant hit. Chefs roasted it with garlic, mashed it with Gorgonzola, and paired it with the likes of duck and filet mignon.

But while our potato palate was expanding in one direction, it was narrowing in another. Shortly after Yukon Gold’s debut, the Russet Norkotah sprouted on the … » More …

Fall 2009

Washington potatoes

Judging by his occasional ribald references to the potato, Shakespeare considered the exotic tuber primarily as an aphrodisiac. Although the time of the potato’s introduction to Europe from the New World is not clear, recent scholarship has determined that the potato was grown in Spain as early as 1570. But the potato is an odd vegetable. Potatoes of that era were not uniformly oblong and smooth, but came in many colors and shapes, with odd protuberances that reminded some of, well, body parts. Although Indians had eaten them for thousands of years, Europeans were mystified, if not titillated.

But they got more adventurous. And the … » More …