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The Potato State: Visiting the Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot Idaho

Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot Idaho
Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot Idaho

When I tell people I am from Idaho they often say “oh do you grow potatoes?” and chuckle at the fact that they know at least one thing about Idaho. This comment often results in an eye roll from me. But I guess I should be glad that they know at least something about Idaho.

Yes our state grows potatoes, but I will be honest I have never grown a potato. I will pause now for the collective gasp. Even more shocking than that, when I do eat a potato it is often not even from my state, but from the neighboring state of Washington. Idaho is busy exporting their potatoes to the East Coast of the country. You’re welcome East Coast, those Idaho potatoes are tasty… so I’ve heard 🙂

Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot Idaho
An old train station houses the Potato Museum

On our spring trip this year I made a stop at the Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot Idaho. It is a small museum and at the time of our visit under a bit of restoration. The museum’s building, an old train station, is worth checking out even if you do not have time to stop in at the museum. You can also snap a photo of a ginormous baked potato outside that will surely invoke envy in your friends far and wide.

The museum is small and includes an extensive gift shop of all things potato. I was not there to shop however, but to learn about the potato.  The attached museum leads you through the history of the potato and how potatoes came to the United States, as well as to Idaho.

Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot Idaho
A map of where Idaho’s potatoes are grown

Exhibits of how potatoes are grown and farmed are on display as well as the inspection process of the potato. Prior to my visit I had no idea that potatoes were examined so thoroughly prior to me picking up a bag at the store. Any potato that is not picture perfect, meaning having imperfections such as strange growths or lumps and bumps, are sent off to a granule plant. There they are chopped up, sliced up or shredded for other potato needs. So your hash browns weren’t the pretty potatoes, but in the potato world even the funny looking potatoes get their chance in the potato lime light.

Want to know more about potatoes? Well get ready to flex your trivia muscles after reading our 10 fun facts about potatoes you may not have known before:

1.There are 4000+ varieties of native potatoes. According to the Idaho Potato Commission the state of Idaho grows 28 different verities of potatoes. The Russet Burbank it the most popular potato grown in the state of Idaho.

2.The Russet potato makes excellent baked potatoes, French fries and mashed potatoes.

3.Potatoes date back to 8000 BC. They were farmed by the Inca Indians in Peru. Potatoes first showed up in Idaho around 1836.

4.Did you admire Matt Damon’s character in The Martian, growing his own potatoes? It probably would have been harder than the movie made it out to be. Although possible, most store-bought potatoes are treated with chemicals to prevent sprouting. Potatoes are most often grown from seed potatoes, or potatoes that have not been treated. But hey, you’d probably give it your best shot too if it was between trying to grow potatoes and starving to death, right? And he was after all the greatest botanist on the planet. So that came in handy.

Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot Idaho
It’s big, it’s flat… it’s a crisp?

5.Where is the largest potato chip in the world? Idaho, imagine our surprise if it wasn’t. The largest potato chip is 25” X 14” (63 cm X 35 cm) and weighs 5.4 oz. (153 grams). The chip is technically a crisp, but let’s not get technical. This chip has 920 calories, or about 46% of what your daily calorie intake should be. You can see this chip on display at the Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot Idaho.

6.Why are potato chip bags always half full of air? It is called slack fill and helps protect your chips from being broken in transit.

7.Potatoes are your best bang for your buck when growing vegetables. From a water to food ratio potatoes use the least amount of water and produce the most amount of food when compared to other food crops.

8.Potatoes are good for you! They have no trans fat or saturated fat. They are high in vitamin C, iron and potassium and cholesterol free.

9.Have you ever wondered why potatoes have to be stored in a cool, dark place? A potato is about 80% water and can lose moisture quickly if not stored properly. You will be left with a shriveled up sad potato if left in the wrong environment. You also want to store potatoes away from other vegetables such as onions. Gasses produced by both vegetables cause both to spoil quickly.

10.In the United States there are 7 main categories of potatoes: Russet, Red Potatoes, White Potatoes, Yellow Potatoes, Purple/Blue Potatoes, Fingerling Potatoes and Petite Potatoes.

Bonus: potatoes can be used to make vodka. Grand Teton in Driggs Idaho uses potato flakes to make their vodka. Check out our visit to the Grand Teton Distillery.  While you are in Driggs be sure to stop by the Spud Drive In Giant Potato.  It’s not a real potato but you can pretend!

The Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot Idaho is located at 130 NW Main Street. They are open Monday – Saturday with various hours during the different seasons. Admission is $3 USD for adults.

Now that you are full of potato facts it is time to fill yourself up on potatoes! What is your favorite type of potato style?

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Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot Idaho

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