The Best Potatoes in the World – Or – What Makes Idaho Potatoes so Idahoy

I have seen a few ads on TV recently that have shown farmers arguing over which state grows the best potatoes.  The obvious omission from this argument is my home state of Idaho, which has had the reputation of growing the best potatoes for as long as I remember.  These ads are done by the Lay’s company, and I happen to have access to some inside knowledge about all this best state for potato business that I would like to share.

This access comes from a man named Karl Richie.  He was in my graduating class from high school.  He went on to get some Phd thing in agricultural engineering from the University of Illinois, and he now manages potato farms for Lay’s in southern Michigan.  He also happens to be in my current ward.  I have asked him about why Idaho has advantages over other states when it comes to growing potatoes, and this is basically what he told me:  It is the climate, stupid.  Allow me to explain.

When the temperature during the daytime gets above 80 degrees F, the potato plant basically shuts down.  If this happens in long stretches during the summer, you will have smaller, less healthy plants and potatoes.  Southern Idaho’s high elevation and northern latitude results in summer temperature highs that are rarely over 80 degrees, which lead to large, healthy potatoes.

When the temperature during the night dips below 55 degrees F, the sugars from the leaves of the plant begin flowing down toward the potatoes themselves.  When this happens frequently during the summer, you will have very sweet, good-tasting potatoes.  Again, southern Idaho’s relatively cool summer nights lead to good tasting spuds.

Potatoes need lots of water, but they do not like what often comes with it.  Potatoes are very susceptible to molds, fungus, and other plant diseases.  And growing in an area with lots of natural rainfall provide all of this.  Southern Idaho has very little rainfall during the summer.  It is almost desert like.  So there is very little mold and fungus around naturally.  Also, because of the dry climate of southern Idaho, the farmers are committed to aggressive irrigation.  Thus, the potatoes get the best of both worlds – plenty of water, but almost no mold or fungus problems.

So, with all due respect, you can forget all these claims about the best potatoes being grown in Florida, or Texas, or California, or even Michigan.  Idaho has all of the fundamental climate advantages in its favor.  The other states can only hope for a cool summer, and fight plant diseases like mad.  The only reason Lay’s pushes for potatoes being grown in other states is for distribution advantages – which I have a hard time believing will offset the other disadvantages.  So no matter what other states may claim, when it comes to potatoes, Idaho still rules.

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13 Responses to “The Best Potatoes in the World – Or – What Makes Idaho Potatoes so Idahoy”


  1. 1 C Jones March 8, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Amen! Also the volcanic soil is kinda hard to replicate elsewhere :-)

  2. 2 Mark N. March 8, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    If the Yellowstone super-volcano goes off, that volcanic soil is going to become a lot more plentiful. :-)

  3. 3 rk March 8, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    I heard once that some of the best potatoes for chips don’t come from Idaho, but rather from the Dakotas. I think it also has to do with the size and variety grown. I don’t know that Russet Burbank is the best for chipping, so that may be why Idaho was not on the list.

    • 4 Daniel Love June 16, 2011 at 11:11 pm

      The best chipping potato is called the Frito Lay Russet I bealive the name is, but the name may just be the Firto Lay, I think the Frito Lay company may have funded the reasurch that went into the breeding, and market realse of the veriaty.

  4. 5 Eric Nielson March 9, 2011 at 7:51 am

    CJones and Mark N. I am not sure about the volcanic soil thing. I’ll have to ask Karl.

    rk. At least the Dakotas make sense – they would have many of the same advantages as Idaho has.

  5. 6 Ardis E. Parshall March 10, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    It would never occur to me to consider any other state’s potatoes as being superior to Idaho’s. Now I know why.

    An Idaho farmer’s son once brought me a hundred pounds of his father’s potatoes as a gift. I have never in my tasted better. They were so much better than anything I had ever had from the store that I wondered if the store always carried last year’s leftovers.

    Note to the sons of other Idaho potato farmers: Sacks of potatoes are always welcome gifts at my house. If your girl turns up her nose because they aren’t roses or diamonds, I will gladly, GLADLY, accept them.

  6. 7 Freddie Philippi May 4, 2011 at 8:31 am

    If you are discussing the best potatoes in the world, Tasmania an island in Australia has the best soil and most suitable climate and wins the title by a country mile.

  7. 9 Daniel Love June 16, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    I think I know which commerical your talking about, it’s a commerial for Lay potato chips, I asked my dad about this AD, and the claims are for where the best Potato Chip potatos come from, belive it or not Idaho is low on the list when it comes to producting potatos for making potato chips. My dad has this in on good athoraty as he used to work for a potato breeding reasurch team at a University of Idaho R&E center. My dad changed his feild of work there to using native plants in gardens, so he no long is involved in potato breeding.

    When it come to potatos used for other perpouse Idaho is king.

  8. 10 Eric Nielson June 17, 2011 at 6:55 am

    Talking to my friend I mention in the post, he says that potato chip makers often use some of the cheapest (worst) potatos they can find. This is because they are going to be putting tons of salt and flavorings on them anyway. You are not going to be tasting the potato itself hardly at all. Quality is not really what potato chip people are after.

  9. 11 Ray November 27, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Maine potaoes are WAY better tasting than Idahoes!!!! northern Maine hardly ever gets to 80 degrees in the day 50 at night……Dont nock them till you try them!!!!

  10. 12 T.Belton February 11, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Sorry folks, I lived in America for a long time and there are many things that you definately come number one in……..however potatoes are not one of them, our Desiree and King Edwards (to name but a couple), are the best, most of ours are grown in the East Anglia region of the UK and the soil there is practically black and very soft and some of the most fertile in the world…..perfect for ‘perfect’ spuds (that hard soil in the U.S. does nothing to create either a good waxy or floury potato, not to mention cleaning them, before peeling). ‘Mickey D’s here in the Uk use British Spuds and many Americans here (there are quite a few U.S. Airforce Bases in this area) prefer the Fries they produce here to the ones produced in the Mickey D’s in the States, also if you want a decent mash, it should be yellowish in colour/color, not white and I never saw a yellow fleshed potato in the States!!….you don’t need an extremely sunny climate for good spuds, they are a very hardy veg/starch. Also the U.S. commissary, sell Walkers Crisps/Chips (the most popular brand in the Uk), and they can’t keep them in, they sell out so fast, Lays are good, but
    Walkers are fantastic!!……sorry, but it’s all in the soil and climate, heat is great for many fruits (with the exception of Apples), but not for ‘all rounder spuds’………Just a note to remember, Fat/Chunky Fries are better for you(and far more satisfying) than the thin long ones, as they just absorb more cooking oil/fat! I would have to say though, I don’t think I tried any spuds from Maine…..maybe I would be a convert, as I never say never!


  1. 1 Another Try at Growing Potatoes | Survival Gear & Supplies Trackback on March 9, 2012 at 10:08 am

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