Bodega Red Potato Presidium


Presidium (plural presidia): A protective fortress. A garrison, as in the San Francisco Presidio. From the Latin presidiare, to guard.


The Bodega Red Potato has been a project of Slow Food Sonoma County North since 2006.  Through Slow Food’s efforts, a small supply of virus-free Bodega Red seed potatoes became available in 2013.  Since then, Slow Food has placed over 9000 pounds of seed in the hands of local farmers and gardeners.


History

In the 1840s this Chilean potato jumped ship on the Sonoma County coast and found a home in the fields farmed around Bodega and Tomales Bay.  The prosperous crop provided sustenance for Gold Rush miners, inspired squatter wars and made the farming area the potato capital of California.  Luther Burbank used the potato as parent material.  Named the Bodega Red, the potato became functionally extinct from neglect.  Rediscovered in the early 2000s by Slow Food Sonoma County North, the Bodega Red is the focus of a recovery project to re-introduce this heirloom potato to the North Bay food culture:  farmers, chefs, gardeners and consumers.


Facts

Documentation – Identified by research geneticists at the USDA as a unique potato related to others native to Chile

Appearance – Pink-red skin; slightly flattened and oblong; white flesh

Taste – Thin skinned, rich potato flavor; creamy and nutty, excellent texture – neither waxy nor starchy

Uses – Versatile – steam, roast, boil, fry, mash

2018 local plantings – 2000 pounds

Yield – Approximately 8 pounds per 1 pound planted

Harvest – June for new potatoes; into September for mature spuds

Farm sales – 2018 harvest sold out at $3-4 pound

Distribution – Slow Food Sonoma County North distributes virus-free Bodega Red seed potatoes annually, in March

Presidium – One of five projects in the USA selected for Presidium status by Slow Food’s Foundation for Biodiversity  

Contact: Barbara Bowman      


KRCB North Bay Report:  Local Potato Variety Stages Comeback from near Extinction-Interview with Elissa Rubin-Mahon & Emmett Hopkins.   Bodega Red Potato Interview


Instructions for Planting Bodega Red Seed Potatoes

Planting

  • Plant seed potatoes in early spring, in soil that is more than 50°.  Best to wait until after the last frost date, unless the soil temperature is above 50.  (Usually can’t plant at the coast until the end of May.)
  • Seed potatoes should be the size of an egg to plant, so you will cut each seed potato into pieces.
    • Cut the stem end off; that’s where decay will occur.
    • Cut off areas that are funky.
    • Doesn’t matter how many eyes are in each piece.
  • Dip all potato pieces in wood ashes or oyster-shell lime.  Plant them right away.
  • Alternatively, let the pieces dry out for 3 days before planting.  They may turn green, which is good.
  • Potatoes can be planted in rows or intensive checkerboard.
  • There should be 30-36” between rows, and about 10-12” between potato pieces (the space between plants affects the size of the potatoes).
  • Plant in moist soil, but not saturated.  The seed pieces need air.  Create rows of hills and trenches, and plant the pieces in the trenches.

Care

  • Once the potatoes are planted, don’t irrigate until the plant emerges.
  • The most important time to irrigate is when the plants flower.
  • Hill the soil around the plants as they get tall and wobbly, around 6-12”, up to their “necks” (so about 2” is showing).
  • Any time after flowering, you can reach in and pull out a few tubers.
  • Before full harvesting, tuber formation should have stopped.  Leaves will be mostly browned.

Storage

  • Don’t store the potatoes until the skin is cured (hardened), about 2 weeks.  Keep the soil on the potatoes when you store them.

Need help or have questions?  Contact Ken, our seed supplier, at kjochimsen@zuckermanfarms.com

Instructions are based on Nathan Boone’s Secrets of Potato Culture Slow Food workshop.