When I first saw these gnarly little potatoes in the Boistfort Valley Farm booth at the Ballard Farmers’ Market last fall, I actually thought they were some variety of Jerusalem Artichoke. The sign indicated "Ozette potatoes," and even though I still wasn’t sure about them I bought some two weeks running. They were some of the starchiest potatoes I’ve ever tasted, giving russets a run for their money. They weren’t good for mashing, but they were great for oven roasting – I mainly quarter them lengthwise, toss them in olive oil salt and pepper, put them on a rack and roast at 450-degrees. I think they would also be great for French frying.
This year Nature’s Last Stand brought some early Ozettes to the market a few weeks back, and the farmer gave me the low down. Apparently, they are classified as "fingerlings" - although by whom I do not know - and that they were placed on the Slow Food Ark of Taste a few years back. I’ve been buying them from him every week now. They are so very tasty, with a bit more flavor than most starchy potatoes I’ve eaten. All potatoes originated in South America and were take to Europe by the Spanish explorers, and eventually brought to North America. The Ozette was never taken to Europe, but was brought to the Pacific Northwest directly by the Spanish Explorers. When they abandoned their northern-most outpost, the Makah Indian tribe continued to cultivate the potatoes they left behind, and had been doing so for over 200 years. They were catalogued/discovered by outsiders in the late 1980s. Small scale farming of these buried gems has been building here in the Pacific Northwest, mainly through the efforts of Slow Food. Ask you local potato farmers to investigate the Makah Ozette.