The humble potato; overlook it at your peril. This years potato crop in the Netherlands was a poor show due to a wet spring and a very dry summer which meant that production wasn’t up to its usual standards. With the rate of potato farmers across the world dwindling, Hollanders have been innovative in the way they look forward. In order to future proof their spuds farmers, researchers in the North of the Netherlands are working on a new initiative to find ways to save the worlds favourite vegetable.
‘Potato Valley’ as it is more fondly known, targets around 800 growers in Groningen and Friesland. The Dutch are among the leading producers of potatoes ranking among the top 10 potato growers in the world. But diseased potato crops are no laughing matter, just ask the Irish! The Dutch aren’t prepared to take that risk and are working to ‘future proof‘ its national treasure.
So Mr Farmer is there any saving them?
Around 2.5 billion kilos of potatoes are eaten by the Dutch each year – the equivalent of 140 kilos for every single person and with an export market of a further billion kilos this line of business is almost as profitable as tulips. (I am struggling to decide which to rate higher – potatoes or tulips – its a tough call!)
A discovery back in 2011 found two species of potato that thrive in saline soil aka salty soil. Due to the flatness* (yes thats a word) of the Netherlands, strong winds can draw sea salt up into the air which contaminates the soil. With standard types of potato failing to thrive in such conditions the discovery of saltwater loving spuds could not only be the answer in the Netherlands but may also be the answer for the less arable countries all over the world.
How do you like yours?
The humble carbohydrate can find itself in many typical Dutch dishes from the classic Stamppot. The traditional ‘all in one pot’ dish is made by mashing, or in this case – stamping- potatoes with any combination of saurerkraut, kale, spinach etc. What the English call Bubble and Squeak and the Irish call Colcannon.
When we talk about Dutch food its easy to overlook potatoes. A country known for its cheese, its spices and sauces and indeed its syrup waffles but amongst any list of the top ten foods to try in Holland you will find patat. Basically french fries, but cut thicker and best eaten on the street from a paper funnel and covered in mayonnaise (the mayo is optional but you will get funny looks if you refuse it!)
Fried slices of potato aren’t the best ways to enjoy one of your five-a-day but possibly the most tasty way.
It would be a travesty to run out of potatoes but I feel confident that Potato Valley will prevail and if salty spuds are they way forward, then slice ’em and fry ’em and keep ’em coming!