Harissa Fries & Potato Farming
Zippy Baked French Fries made with middle-eastern Harissa. These spicy fries are a fabulous party snack and side dish!
What do you know about potato farming?
If you’re like me, you might instantly jump to high school history lessons on the Irish Potato Blight, or think of Idaho. Right?
Well I recently spent a day on a midwest potato farm and discovered there is much more to potato farming than meets the eye.
Last month I had the opportunity to tour Black Gold Farms.
Black Gold Farms was started over 85 years ago by Hali Halverson, a potato farmer in North Dakota. Black Gold Farms was named for the dark nutrient-rich soil of the Red River Valley.
Me shooting potatoes on my iphone. Photo credit, Foodie Crush.
Over the years as Black Gold Farms expanded, the Halverson family discovered one way to be more efficient and earth-conscious was to stop trucking loads of potatoes across the USA.
They made it a goal to start new farms close to their largest buyers, and to find a way to grow potatoes in climates that were not normally thought of as potato-friendly.
This Black Gold Farm is in Arbyrd, MO.
Black Gold Farms now has 11 farms in 11 states, and has expanded to red, white, and yellow table-stock potatoes, sweet potatoes, fingerlings and “white chippers” for potato chips. Black Gold Farms grows the majority of the potatoes for Frito Lay potato chips.
Leah and John Halverson
Hali’s great-grandchildren, John, Eric and Leah now own and operate the farm. Farmer John gave use a thorough lesson on the difference in “chipper” potatoes and table-stock potatoes.
Potatoes grown for chips are white thin-skinned potatoes that are harvested at the potato’s peek, so the skins chip off easily. This makes them easy for food companies to peel and use.
See? The skin just flicks right off…
Table stock potatoes, that you and I buy at the market, are left in the field a bit longer.
The plant above is “killed” and the potatoes are left in the ground so the skin can thicken and seal in the potato flesh for protective purposes. This gives the potatoes a better color and longer shelf life.
The process of “killing” potato plants before harvest has been around for hundreds of years. Since farmers used to (and still) store potatoes in their cellar all winter, they needed them to last.
Just look at the difference in the chipper and table-stock fields during harvest.
When the potatoes are just right, a harvester drives through the field and digs up the potatoes. A truck drives next to the harvester, collecting the potatoes.
I got to drive the harvester.
Well… I got to RIDE in the harvester. That counts for something.
Once the potatoes are collected they are washed, checked for quality several times, and sent off for their final purpose.
The chipper potatoes go straight into another truck that heads to Frito Lay.
The red potatoes, and other table stock varieties, are packaged in various ways.
Some are boxed for grocery bulk bins, some are bagged in Black Gold Farms wrappings, some are bagged with private labels, and some are put into cute little containers for specialty products, like this new “Better With Red” roasting package with McCormick seasonings.
The point is, as Black Gold Farms now produces over half a billion potatoes each year, you are probably eating them and don’t even know it!
Here’s a great video clip from Black Gold Farms called God Made a Farmer, narrated by Paul Harvey.
A few more Potato Fun Facts from Farmer John:
- It takes 110 days to grow potatoes from seed to harvest.
- Each potato plant can produce up to 2 1/2 pounds of potatoes.
- Black Gold Potatoes are not Genetically Modified.
- Black Gold rotates their fields each years to make sure the soil stays rich.
I think our whole group earned a little bit of “Farm Cred” at Black Gold Farms!
Photo Credit, Reluctant Entertainer.
This week I used red potatoes to make these easy and addictive Harissa Baked French Fries.
Did you know the texture of red potatoes makes incredible oven baked french fries?!
Simply cut the potatoes and toss them in olive oil and harissa spice paste. Bake until crispy.
These spicy fries are absolutely Better with Reds!
Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Harissa Baked French Fries - Spicy Fries
- 4 lbs. Large Red Potatoes
- 3 Tb. Olive Oil
- 1 1/2 Tb. Harissa (spice paste)
- Salt and Pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and line two rimmed baking sheets with foil.
- Leaving the peels on, cut the red potatoes into strips about 1/2 X 1/2 X 3-4 inches. (The more consistent the size is, the better the fries bake.) Place the fries on a baking sheet and top with oil and harissa. Toss and coat thoroughly. Spread the fries out over both baking sheets, so that none of them touch.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then gently flip and bake another 10-15 minutes, until golden and crisp. Serve warm.
For extra kick, add some harissa to your ketsup!
Disclosure: I won a trip to visit Black Gold Farm, all expenses paid. This is an account of my experience, not a sponsored post.
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